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The Karnak Temple

The Karnak Temple

 

Where is the Karnak Temple located?

The el-Karnak district is located 3 kilometers north of Luxor in the Luxor Governorate. With the temple of Karnak, it is the most important and largest temple complex in Egypt. The Karnak temple complex is one of Egypt’s Unesco World Heritage Sites.
The district, located three kilometers north of Luxor, was first created south of the Karnak Temple. The Sphingenallee,  which connects the Karnak with the Luxor temple, runs directly through the former village and leads to the first pylon of the Karnak temple. On each side in front of the 1st pylon there are 20 sphinxes with ram heads, which were built to protect the temple – the ram head symbolizes God Amun.
The modern Arabic name Karnak has only been documented since the 17th century. The origin of the name is unknown. It may refer to the ancient Egyptian temple complex or its surrounding wall and mean fortress or fortified village. The village is the namesake of the local temple complexes.

The temple complexes

Karnak temple, hall of pillars Karnak temple, hall of pillars Karnak temple
The pillared hall in the Karnak temple

Outstanding among the ruins are the Temple of Amun-Re with its ten pylons,  the largest of which is approx. 113 meters wide and approx. 15 meters thick and has a planned height of approx. 45 meters. The total area of ​​the temple is approximately 30 hectares. After the 1st pylon there is the open courtyard of the temple, then you will find the ruins of the 2nd pylon and then you enter the large portico, which was started by Haremhab and completed under Setos I and Ramses II.
The temple complex consists of three walled areas, the district of Amun (ancient Egyptian Ipet-sut, “place of election”), the district of Month (total area 2.34 hectares) and the district of Mut (total area approx. 9.2 Hectares). In addition to these three large temple districts, there is also the Aton Temple and the Gem-pa-Aton, which Akhenaten had built in Karnak in the sixth year of his reign. In ancient times, an avenue lined with 365 sphinxes on both sides connected the Amun Temple with the Luxor Temple, which was about 2.5 km away. This street ended at the 10th pylon of the temple.

Purpose of the temple complex
After the elevation of Amun-Res from Thebes to the local god and later to the realm god, the rulers of the early Middle Kingdom began building a temple that was extended over thousands of years to the present temple complex, where the Amun priesthood performed daily temple service. Temples were also built for the wife of Amun, the goddess Mut, and for their son Chons. Together they formed the triad of Thebes . In addition to these three gods, a temple was dedicated to God Month, who was the main god of Thebes in the 11th dynasty.
In the ancient Egyptian world of belief there is the principle of the cosmological order, this principle is called the mate. Since the mate is not an unchangeable state and can be thrown out of balance by humans, it is important to maintain this state in order to keep chaos and annihilation away from the world. An Egyptian temple is a model of the world. One of the king’s primary duties was to maintain the balance of the mate. This happened in the most sacred area of ​​the temple. Sacred acts of worship (offerings, prayers and chants) were performed in the temple by the king or the high priest who represented him.

Architectural history
The earliest evidence of an Amun cult in Thebes comes from the Middle Kingdom. It is an octagonal pillar Antef II, which is now in the Luxor Museum. The oldest remains that are still visible today date from the time of Sesostri I. In the New Kingdom there was a lot of construction work and the temple complex soon reached enormous dimensions. Even in the late and Greco-Roman times was still built on the temple.

Districts of the Karnak temple complex

District of the Amun

Karnak Temple, Luxor, Thebes,
Karnak temple

The largest area of ​​the facility is the Amun district. It houses the great temple of Amun-Re, the temple of Chons, the barque sanctuary of Ramses III, a temple of Ipet, and a small sanctuary of Ptah and the temple of Amenhotep II.

Temple of Amun-Re

The Temple of Amun-Re, also called the Imperial Temple, is the largest Egyptian temple with a total of ten pylons. It is not a temple in the classic sense, but a collection of different sacred buildings built together. Various parts of the temple were torn down again and their building materials reused in other parts. Only the center of the temple, from today’s fourth pylon to the Ach menu, as a particularly sacred area remained untouched.

One of the most important areas of the temple is the large hypostyle, which Haremhab began to build between the second and third pylon, and which was later completed under Setos I and Ramesses II. 134 papyrus columns once stood on an area 103 meters long and 53 meters wide, which supported the wooden roof of the hypostyle. In the central nave of the hall, the columns were up to 22.5 meters high.

Oh menu

Also the Ach menu or the temple of Thutmosis III. It should be mentioned that it bears the ancient Egyptian name Men-cheper-Ra-ach-menu: “Wonderful about monuments is Men-cheper-Ra” (Thutmosis III.) or “Sublime is the memory of Men-cheper-Ra”. In addition to these names, there is also the name Millennium House, which suggests that the temple was dedicated to the cult of the king in its manifestation of Amun-Re.

The botanical garden of Thutmosis III

A little gem is the botanical garden of Thutmosis III in the festival temple. Here the great general proves that the war craft was not his only interest. Returning from his successful campaign in Syria, he had the animals and plants of the conquered countries chiseled into the walls of a bark shrine. Some are clearly recognizable, such as the snake-necked bird and the shoebill, others, such as the pomegranates and dragonwort.

The architecturally striking festival hall is often referred to as the marquee due to the arrangement of its columns. The higher middle room consists of two rows of columns with ten columns each and is surrounded by lower aisles with a total of 32 columns. Access to the Ach menu is the so-called Karnak king list with the names of a total of 61 kings. The ach menu is on the east-west axis of the temple district, but the north-south axis is also taken into account in the structural arrangement. In the back are the sanctuaries for the gods Sokar (south) and Amun-Re (north).

The Karnak open-air museum, which is located in the northwest corner of the temple district of Amun-Re, contains rebuilt monuments that were torn down as a result of extensions during the 2000 years of construction of the Temple of Amun-Re or the Month Temple, and in foundations or in Pylons were reinstalled.

The following buildings can be visited in the open-air museum:

  • White chapel

The White Chapel (also Chapelle blanche) was built in the 12th Dynasty by Sesostris I from white limestone. It is the oldest surviving structure of the temple complex. A 6.54 × 6.54 meter kiosk is located on a 1.18 meter high plinth, the roof of which is supported by four by four pillars. The White Chapel was built as a barque sanctuary and thus served as a station chapel for the bark of the gods at various festivities. The white chapel stood like the red chapel and also the alabaster chapel in the area between the third and seventh pylon. The chapel was rebuilt in the Karnak open-air museum.

  • Red chapel

The Red Chapel was built by Queen Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty. The chapel originally stood in the area between the third and seventh pylon. Later, the chapel of Thutmosis III, which was built as a barque sanctuary. tore off. Amenophis III. had the blocks used as filler for the third pylon. During restoration work, 319 blocks of black granite and red quartzite from the chapel came to light. The Red Chapel in the open-air museum of the temple complex was rebuilt from this material.
The images of the Red Chapel show the crowning of Hatshepsut, scenes of sacrifice and the Theban festivals such as the Opet Festival. The chapel also houses the oldest representation of this festival.

  • Alabaster chapel

The alabaster chapel, built in the 18th dynasty as the barque sanctuary of Thutmose IV, was probably located like the red and white chapel in the area between the third and seventh pylon.

Ramses III Temple

In the courtyard behind the first pylon is the Temple of Ramses III on the right. It is still almost completely preserved and in very good condition. Behind a pylon with two colossal figures in front of it is the festival yard, lined on the sides by eight statue pillars each. A small hall with four statue pillars follows the courtyard. This is followed by the hypostyle with two by four columns. Behind the hypostyle are three sanctuaries dedicated to the gods Amun-Re, Mut and Chons. The similarity to Temple C of the Mut district is striking.

Karnak temple, Luxor, Egypt, holy lake in Karnak,
The holy lake in the Karnak temple

Holy lake

The sacred lake has a size of 120 × 77 meters and is located south of the central temple building. This lake has no supply lines, it is only fed by the groundwater. Next to the lake was a small covered goose enclosure, which was connected to the lake by a passage. The geese were the sacred animals of Amun. The priests also removed the water for washing the god figures from the lake.

Temple of the Opet

The Temple of Opet was built by Ptolemy VIII during the Ptolemaic period. A staircase in a kiosk with four columns leads through the gate of the first pylon to the first courtyard. In the first courtyard there is another kiosk with four columns. The second courtyard is higher, that is how the original hill is supposed to be represented. In the back part of the temple there is an underground Osiris tomb and a crypt, here the metamorphosis of the god Amun-Re, who dies as Osiris, then entered the body of the Ipet-weret-Nut and was reborn as the god Chons.

Temple of the Chons

The Temple of Chons is located on the southern edge in the district of Amun, it is about 80 meters long and 30 meters wide. The temple is directly opposite the luxury temple. During the 20th Dynasty the temple was under Pharaoh Ramses III. built and later by Ramses IV., Ramses XI. and Herihor completed. Behind the large entrance pylon there is a large column room with 28 columns. This is followed by a hypo-style with eight large columns and finally the center, the so-called hall of the barque.

Temple of the Ptah

The Temple of Ptah is on the north wall of the Amun District and was originally walled. With the construction of the great wall around the Amun district, the size of the forecourt to the temple was reduced. Ptolemy III built the small pylon of the temple, in which there are various interiors. There is a small kiosk in front of the pylon. The rest of the temple was already under Thutmose III. built. All parts of the temple that were built of stone have been completely preserved.

Amenophis II Temple

Behind the tenth pylon is the temple of Amenophis II on the east side. A ramp leads to the entrance area, which forms an open pillar hall. A square hypostyle follows behind the pillar hall. There are other small rooms north and south of the hypostyle. Recent investigations showed that it was not Amenhotep II that the temple was built in its current form, but that Sethos I had the temple built from building materials of a demolished building by Amenhotep II.

District of the Month
North, right next to the large area of ​​Amun-Re is a 151 × 155 m area with the temple district of the Month. The surrounding wall dates from the time of Nektanebos I. The actual temple was built by Amenhotep III. built. In addition to the Temple of the Month there is also a Temple of the Maat, a Temple of the Harpare, built by Taharqa and the treasure house Thutmosis I outside the surrounding wall. [The Temple of the Month opens towards the monthly cult site al -Madamud from the temple entrance leads an avenue of sphinxes with sphinxes of 30 people on both sides to a quay facility that is no longer connected to the water.

District of Mut
About 350 m south of the Amun-Re temple is an area of ​​about 250 × 350 meters that includes the district of Mut. It was connected to the temple of Amun-Re by an avenue of sphinxes, with 66 sphinxes]. In addition to the Temple of Courage, which is surrounded on three sides by a holy lake, there are still remains of a Ramses II birth house for “Chonspachrod”, a Ramses III temple. and outside the wall the Kamute temple. In 1840 most of the temples were demolished and used as building material for a factory.

Temple of Courage

The entrance pylon to the Temple of Courage was built by Set II. In front of the pylon there were two shadow roofs supported by pillars, built by Taharqa. In the courtyard behind the first pylon, a portico is formed by four pillars on both sides of its central axis. The gate in the second pylon led to the festival courtyard, where the portico is continued through five pillars on both sides. Seated statues of the goddess Sachmet once stood in both courtyards. Behind the festival courtyard one entered the hypostyle, the ceiling of which was originally supported by eight columns. The bark sanctuary follows behind the hypostyle. The bark sanctuary was surrounded by several adjoining rooms. The bark sanctuary led to the pronaos, an anteroom to the sanctuary. The sanctuary of the temple consists of three cult image niches. Ptolemy II built a counter temple against the back wall of the temple. The temple was largely demolished in 1840.

Temple of Kamutef

The Kamutef Ttempel, built by Hatschepsut, is located northeast of the walled temple district of Mut, on the 330-meter-long Sphingenallee with 66 sphinxes on both sides. The stone temple house is approximately 38.5 × 48.5 meters in size. The temple house was surrounded by a brick wall that opened in a pylon to the Sphingenallee. Thutmosis III. later tried to destroy all references to the original builder, but the reliefs indicate that Hatshepsut was responsible for the installation.

Gem-pa-Aton

To the east of the Amun district was an Aton sanctuary (ancient Egyptian Gem-pa-Aton, “found the Aton”), which was probably built by Akhenaten in the year 6 of his government. The temple of Aton was about 130 × 200 meters, at that time it was larger than the temple of Amun. Akhenaten caused the other temples in Karnak to be closed and made the sun god Aton the sole god. After the original conditions were restored under Haremhab at the latest, the other temples of Karnak were reopened and the Gem-pa-Aton was completely demolished. Tens of thousands of the Talatat blocks were reused as filler material in the buildings of Haremhab and his successors and have therefore been well or very well preserved. These blocks were mainly used for pylons 2, 9 and 10.

In Coptic times , the Karnak temple was used for monks’ accommodation, monasteries and church (s). B. on the frescoes in the Festhalle Thutmosis’ III. can be seen. Possibly they were still in use until the 11th century AD. Even if the place was visited by several Arab authors, only poor information from the Middle Ages has survived

The Karnak Temple is one of the most important sights in Egypt, which many tourists from all over the world marvel at. Take a private Egypt study tour, Nile cruise or day trip with us to visit this impressive historical monument and other archaeological sites in Egypt.

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