The Temple of the Winged Lion is one of the free-standing Nabataean structures in Petra Jordan. It was not carved out of the red-hued rock cliffs of Petra like most of the ancient city. It was constructed during the reign of Nabataean King Aretas IV (9 BC-40 AD) and was part of a temple complex at the end of Petra’s Colonnaded Street that includes Qasr al-Bint, and the Great Temple.
Pro Tip: Stand at the Winged Lion Temple for great shots of Petra. Although experts aren’t sure which god was worshiped here, they think it may have been the goddess al-Uzza. One of the most precious finds during the excavation of the temple was an “eye-stele”, a stone slab featuring a pair of eyes. On the stele was inscribed “Goddess of Hayyan, Son of Nayibat.”
Pro Tip: The main reason to include the Winged Lion Temple in your Petra visit is that it is free-standing and different from the other rock-hewn Petra structures.
History of the Petra Winged Lion Temple
The temple was used for worship at the beginning of the 1st century AD. At the time a bridge would have crossed the wadi and connected the temple to the Colonnaded Street. The temple remained in use until the 363 AD earthquake. Like the rest of Petra, the temple was forgotten for many years. It was only when explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered Petra in 1812 that Westerners became aware of the hidden archaeological gem. Many parts of Petra were excavated and the city was slowly uncovered one structure at a time.
It was only in 1973 that the temple was discovered using electronic sounding and excavation began, led by archaeologist Dr.Philip C. Hammond. The winged lions featured on the column capitals inspired the name of the site. Excavations continued until 2005 and today further exploration of the site is underway. The remains of the temple have given researchers insight into the religious life and customs of the Nabataeans.
What to See at the Temple of the Winged Lion, Petra
As you approach the temple you’ll see a grand entrance with a double colonnade that continues for 85 meters leading to a porch that is 9.5 meters long. The entrance is flanked by large 13-meter-high columns.
Inner Chamber (Cella)
Through the entrance is a 100m² antechamber or entrance room typical of Greco-Roman temples. The inner chamber or cella is flanked by columns.
In the main area of the temple’s interior, there are the remains of twelve columns with capitals featuring winged lion figures. At the far end of the chamber are stairs to a raised platform where priests would have made sacrifices on the altar. The wall behind the altar has niches that once held stone idols and religious objects. When it was first built the inner temple walls would have been adorned with paintings and stucco decoration. But in the years that followed the structure was repurposed and the artwork was wiped out.
On the western side of the temple interior is a complex of small “rooms” where workmen would have created paintings, metalwork, and stonework. They would have produced figurines from marble, bronze, and iron, as well as painted ceramics, and aromatic oils for the temple and for export.
Plan Your Visit
- Open Times - Petra Archaeological Park is open from 06:00-18:00 and until 16:00 in winter. Stay up-to-date with COVID regulations in Jordan.
- Prices - Entrance to the site is 90 JD. If you are on a Petra tour from Israel the admission price is included.
Pro Tip: Buy the Jordan Pass for a discount at Petra Archaeological Park.
- Average Visit Duration - The average time spent at the Winged Lion Temple is 30-45 min.
Pro Tip: Visiting time at this structure is short because you cannot access the remains or walk “inside” the temple.
- Popular Times - Generally speaking it is best to visit Petra in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun. There is no shade at the Winged Lion Temple.
- Special Events - There are no special events at the Winged Lion Temple but you could enjoy the Petra at Night show that takes place three nights a week in front of the Treasury.
- Petra Tours - The Winged Lion Temple can be included in an organized tour of Petra. But with a two day Petra tour, you will see more at your leisure. Join a Petra tour from Tel Aviv if you want to see two countries on one trip.