Last edited 09 Sep 2021



This illustration of the exterior propylaea of Eleusis (1862) comes from the Gazette Des Beaux-Arts, a French art review.

The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture (third edition) was published in 1980. It was created for Penguin Reference and compiled by John Fleming, Hugh Honour and Nikolaus Pevsner.

It defines a propylaea (which is also referred to as propylea, propylaia or propylaeum) as “The entrance gateway to an enclosure (usually temple precincts) as on the Acropolis at Athens.”

In ancient Greek architecture, propylaea was typically constructed on a grand scale. The origins of the word (which can mean fore gate) indicates that the original term propylaea was not one gateway, but a series of gateways.

It is believed that there was a propylaea that opened into a large, colonnaded atrium in Old St Peter’s Basilica.

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