This first site to be inscribed was the Temple of Apollo at Bassae in 1986,
Apollo Epicurius – the architecture of the divine
In the central Peloponnese, at Vasses in ancient Figaleia, at an elevation of 1.130 metres, stands the eternally proud temple of Apollo Epicurius. The inspiration behind its construction and the architect is considered to be the great Ictinus. This universal architectural gem was the first of the great monuments of Greece to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986. The temple can be approached from Ilia, after an enchanting journey along the banks of the river Neda, or from Tripoli and Megalopolis.
Vasses (ancient Bassae) was always a sacred place, host to numerous temples. The region’s name means “little valleys”. And indeed, the mountainous Peloponnesian land creates a magical landscape and within it rises the imposing site of the temple. The mountains of Kotylio, Lykaio, Tetrazio and Elaio stand guard around the valley of Vasses. All the gods of antiquity – Pan, Aphrodite, Artemis, and of course, Apollo, as both ‘Vassitas’ and ‘Epicurius’, that is, “the helper” – were worshipped in this natural sanctuary, and it was here that one of the greatest religious centres of the entire of Hellenic world was to be erected.
The temple in its current form was built between 420 and 400 BC. Archaeologists are convinced that under its foundations lies an even more ancient temple, probably from the seventh century BC. This “new” temple, a unique monument to the skills of its architect, Ictinus, embodies in its structure the entire wealth of architectural knowledge of Greek civilization. With both archaic and innovatory elements, it has been greatly admired by all visiting travellers through the centuries. Pausanias, the great traveller and geographer, who arrived in Vasses in the 2nd century AD, was stunned by its majesty and strength. It is speculated that the central column of the temple was designed to reflect the first rays of the summer solstice, symbolizing the eternal light of the sun god, Apollo. If this is true, then this is the first large scale sculptural work of art in the history of mankind to represent an abstract concept.
The monumental temple frieze, of great historical and artistic value, which depicts Hercules, the Centaurs and the Amazons, is today to be found in the British Museum.