In our recent blog post titled, “The 6 Biggest Tourist Attractions in Nashville” we reviewed some of the can’t miss places and events in Nashville. These included the likes of the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Hermitage, and many others. Yet one of these attractions warranted a deeper dive: the full scale Parthenon replica located at Centennial Park. It is crazy how few Americans even know about this miracle of architecture. A full-scale, fully functioning monument as it existed in ancient Greece resides quietly in the Music City!
Today, we will explore the Parthenon in Nashville by reviewing some of the site’s specifications, review a brief history of the Parthenon and its home, Centennial Park, and finally wrap up with the story of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
Greek Parthenon Replica in Nashville, TN
According to nashville.gov: “Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures, which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon dating back to 438 B.C. The originals of these powerful fragments are housed in the British Museum in London.”
At the center of the Parthenon in Nashville stands a statue of Athena, replicating the architecture and placement of the original in Athens. The 42-foot tall Athena statue represents the goddess of wisdom and war after whom the city of Athens was named.
The Parthenon in Nashville also houses the Nashville Art Museum. “The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.”
A Brief History of Nashville’s Centennial Park
The Parthenon may be the undisputed marvel of Centennial Park, but it has much more to offer in addition! Centennial Park is in Nashville’s West End Neighborhood, and boasts lush natural foliage and a quiet atmosphere adjacent to the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville. The site measures 132 acres and has been used as a racetrack, fairground, and for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition (the event for which The Parthenon replica was erected).
- Before becoming a park, the land was a farm owned by Anne Roberston Cockrill. Cockrill’s brother James Robertson is recognized as one of the founding fathers of Middle Tennessee.
- Cockrill was granted the land by the government as a reward for her brave actions during a Native American attack on Fort Nashborough. Cockrill is also known for being Tennessee’s first school teacher.
- After the Civil War, around 1884-95, the land was known as West Side Park which had been repurposed as a racetrack for thoroughbreds.
- The site was officially dubbed Centennial Park in 1897 to commemorate Tennessee’s 100th anniversary.
- The Parthenon was erected around the time of the Centennial celebration and in time for the World’s Fair of 1897.
The Story of the Parthenon in Ancient Greece
Now that we know a bit about Centennial Park and its Parthenon replica, what about the real deal? The Parthenon in Athens stands as one of the most timeless and recognizable architectural achievements in human history. Here’s why:
- The Parthenon was built in the 5th century B.C.E. as a tribute to Athena, the god of wisdom and war. A statue of Athena is the centerpiece of the structure.
- “The Parthenon is a temple of the Doric order with eight columns at the façade, and seventeen columns at the flanks, conforming to the established ratio of 9:4. This ratio governed the vertical and horizontal proportions of the temple as well as many other relationships of the building like the spacing between the columns and their height.”
- The Parthenon is so significant in part because it is the crowning achievement of Greek architecture in perhaps its most significant location. Built on the acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon was not just another building, it held vital significance in both a practical and sentimental fashion.
- Since its erection, The Parthenon has been used as a treasury, a Roman Catholic church, a Byzantine church, a mosque, and an ammunitions warehouse.
- The Parthenon was badly damaged after the Ottoman conquest, but recent votes have set in motion a plan to rebuild many of the damaged sections of the original Parthenon using local, traditional materials.
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