Thursday, June 08, 2006

Temple of Mysteries

John Banville on Mark Rothko @ TATE, Etc.

On a trip to Sicily some years ago I came one day unexpectedly upon the Doric temple of Segesta, in the countryside not far from Palermo. Segesta, built around 450BC by the indigenous Elmyans with the assistance of Greek colonists, is refreshingly lacking in tourists. It was a very beautiful spring morning when I was there, yet the place was deserted. I simply turned a bend in the road and there it was, standing above a blossoming meadow in its own silence, seeming, as all Greek temples do, to be tilted at a slight angle to the earth and rapt in contemplation of the sky. I thought at once of Martin Heidegger’s essay The Origin of the Work of Art, in which the philosopher meditates on the way in which the temple not only “encloses the figure of the god”, but is an agent of physis, by which the Greeks meant, according to Heidegger, the “emerging and rising in itself” of all things. “The temple’s firm towering makes visible the invisible space of air.”


No comments: