Five ancient sacred sites around the world



Mount Nemrut, Turkey

The 2,134m-high Mount Nemrut in southeastern Turkey is home to an otherworldly world. Unesco World Heritage Site known as ‘The Throne of the Gods’. At the top is a religious sanctuary and an ancient burial mound, dating from the 1st century BC, built by King Antiochus I of the Kingdom of Commagene.

Archaeologists believe that Mount Nemrut was a sacred site for the people of Commagene, which is why King Antiochus I wanted his tomb placed there. Surrounding the mound are massive statues of Greco-Persian gods, including Zeus, Hercules and Apollo, and King Antiochus himself, as well as lion and eagle guardians. Like Stonehenge in England or the moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the statues, which stand up to 9m high, are a feat of engineering that seems to defy the era in which they were built.

“Mount Nemrut is a sacred place that stands in an austere landscape,” Rainier said. “It’s filled with statues with broken heads and strewn about. The rocky facial structures have been weathered by time, metaphorically suggesting that humanity’s striving to be immortal is eventually waning as nature brings back the statues on Earth. It is a solemn and brooding place.”

Many travelers who come to this isolated mountain in central Anatolia time their visit for sunrise, when the sun illuminates the statues and the eastern terrace; however, the sunset provides an equally memorable and moving experience.

Sacred: In Search of Meaning by Chris Rainier is published by Earth Aware Editions. For more on Chris Rainier’s work, see

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