This article explores the repeated renovation of south Indian temples over the past millennium and the conception of the Tamil temple-city. Though the requirement for renovation is unremarkable, some “renovations” have involved the wholesale replacement of the central shrine, in theory the most sacred part of the temple. Rather than explaining such radical rebuilding as a consequence of fourteenth-century iconoclasm, temple renovation is considered in this article as an ongoing process. Several periods of architectural reconstruction from the tenth to the early twentieth centuries demonstrate the evolving relationship between building, design and sacred geography over one millennium of Tamil temple history. The conclusion explores the widespread temple “renovations” by the devout Nakarattar (Nattukottai Chettiar) community in the early twentieth century, and the consequent dismay of colonial archaeologists at the perceived destruction of South India's monumental heritage, in order to reassess the lives and meanings of Tamil sacred sites.