The Luxor Temple
In the ancient city of Thebes lies the purest vision of elegance and wonder and one of the largest open-air museums in the world – the Luxor Temple (ancient Egypt . Ipet resyet – “the southern sanctuary”).
The temple was built in 1400 BC. BC during the New Kingdom of Egypt under the rule of Amenhotep III.(1390-1352 BC) built in the 18th dynasty. Under Amenophis IV (Akhenaten) the temple was closed, the name of the god Amun was erased, and the king built an aton sanctuary nearby. Tutankhamun continued to build the pillared hall, which was completed by Haremhab.
Ramses II had the first courtyard, including the mighty pylon, statues and obelisks built. Nektanebos I designed the forecourt.
Alexander the Great had the sanctuary rebuilt. Instead of the four pillars that supported the roof, a chapel was built. In Roman times, the temple complex was integrated into a fortress. In the first post-Christian centuries, four churches were built on the site.
Structure of the temple
The temple grounds are located in the city center of Luxor on the eastern bank of the Nile. When entering the temple, you first come to the forecourt of Nektanebos I. From here an avenue, flanked on both sides by sphinxes, leads in a northeasterly direction. In ancient times, the avenue connected the Luxor temple with the Karnak temple 2.5 kilometers away. In 2004, a large part of the avenue was still covered by the modern Luxor and a project for complete exposure was in progress. At the time of Nektanebos I, trees and flowers were planted between the sphinxes.
- Court of Nektanebos I.
Little is left of the surrounding wall that surrounded the courtyard. A Serapis chapel in the northern part of the courtyard is remarkable . It is built from dried Nile mud bricks.
- Statues and obelisks of Ramses II
In the southwest, the courtyard is bordered by a large pylon. In ancient times, two seated figures, four standing statues and two obelisks of Ramses II were placed in front of it. Of these, the two sitting figures, a standing statue and an obelisk still exist today. The second obelisk has been a gift from Sultan Muhammad Ali to the King of France since 1836 on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In exchange, Muhammad Ali received a tower clock for the alabaster mosque in Cairo.
The pylon is made up of two thick, high walls on either side of the entrance, the so-called towers. On the outside of the two towers, scenes from the battle of Ramses II are depicted with the Hittites in submerged relief. Ramses II is depicted on the right tower during the war council and the rush of the Hittites to the Egyptian camp. On the left, Ramses II follows the Hittites fleeing towards the city of Kadesh. In the four recessed niches of the pylon there were four flagpoles.
- First yard
If you pass the pylon, you enter the courtyard of Ramses II. The courtyard is surrounded by a double colonnade. It consists of papyrus bundle columns with a closed capital. In the western part there is a so-called “three-aisled ward chapel” by Queen Hatshepsut. The three rooms are intended for the gods Mut, Amun and Chons. The walls of the courtyard are decorated with scenes of sacrifice and the procession of the sons of Ramses II. In the rear part there are statues that bear the name Ramses II, but partly of Amenophis III. originate and have only been changed in name.
The eastern part of the courtyard is covered with the Abu el-Haggag mosque . Below it is the tomb of the local saint of Luxor Abu el-Haggag in a former Coptic church . The mosque stands about five meters above the temple level, since the temple was buried up to this level at the time of its construction.
If you cross the courtyard, you will reach a column colonnade with 7 x 2 papyrus bundle columns with an open cone capitol. Right behind the entrance there is a statue of a pharaoh and a group of seats representing Amun and Mut. Although they bear the name Ramses II, they are stylistically assigned to the 18th dynasty and thus to an earlier pharaoh. The walls of the courtyard are decorated with scenes from the Opet Festival.
- Second yard
At the end of the portico is the Amenophis III courtyard. It is also surrounded on three sides with a double row of papyrus bundle columns with a closed capital. In 1989, various statues of pharaohs, gods and sphinxes were found here during restoration work at a depth of three meters. They are exhibited in the Luxor Museum.
- Hypostyle hall
In the south there is a pillared hall with 4 by 8 identical pillars as in the courtyard before. The reliefs show Amenophis III. before the gods of Thebes and his coronation. On the left and right there are two small chapels for the goddess Mut and the god Chons.
- Imperial cult room and the Blessed Sacrament
The door in the middle leads to a room that was converted into a tetrarch sanctuary in Roman times. To the left and right of the apse are two Corinthian columns. There is a passage in the apse through which you enter a small pillared hall with 2 by 2 pillars. Behind it is the sanctuary, which was intended for the Amuns barque. The pictures show Alexander the Great in front of different gods. The other rooms can be reached through the room in the east.
- Birth room
From this room you go through the northern door into the so-called birth room. The reliefs on the west wall show the genesis Amenophis III. – from the conception of Queen Mutemwia by Amun, through pregnancy to birth. His accession to the throne is shown opposite. Of the rooms that adjoin in the south, only the chapel of the ithyphallic Amun-Re-Kamutef is worth mentioning.
Purpose of the temple
The luxury temple essentially served two functions. Once a year – on Egyptian New Year’s Day – the Opet Festival was held celebrated . The statues of the gods Amun, Mut and Chonsu were brought here in portable barges from the Karnak temple 2.5 kilometers away. The celebration lasted 11 days initially, but was later extended to 27 days. A break was made at the so-called station stamps and the barges were put down. The goal of the Barke der Mut and the Chons was the chapels directly behind the portico. Only the amunbark was brought into the sanctuary.
The second function was to unite the king with his divine Ka. It was the annual repetition – also on New Year’s Day – of the deification of the king, as it was first performed when he ascended the throne.
Visit the Luxor Temple as part of your Egypt tour or Nile cruise and marvel at the elegance and size of ancient Egyptian art.