Ancient temples in Egypt


The Egyptian gods did not have their seats in the distant heavens, but lived among the people in many temples scattered throughout the country. The statues of deities placed in a cult cell in the temple were not only an image, but were thought to be the deity themself. Therefore, the Egyptians called the temple "the house of god" and also "the horizon of heaven," as the temple symbolized the transition between the world here on earth and the world of the gods.
Served daily and supplied with everything that they need by numerous temple personnel, the gods lived a secret life hidden from the eyes of the Egyptian multitudes. The living mortals were not worthy of coming into direct contact with the deities. They could do this only by referring to the statues of the king or high officials who acted as "intermediaries" in these contacts.

According to the belief of the ancient Egyptians, people must live according to the established order of the world, avoiding sins and worshiping the gods who rewarded them for it by taking care of all life and nature. The temple is a reflection of the entire universe. As long as it exists, the world will also exist. If the preserved temple breaks, there will be chaos and a state of defeat.

Temple architecture developed relatively late in Egypt compared to other civilizations. While impressive cult buildings were built as early as the 5th millennium BC in the Ancient East (Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Palestine), until the beginning of the Old Kingdom, there were only small brick temples in Egypt. However, these small temples already had all of the elements in their planning that are typical of later temples.

Most of the temples that have survived to the present day are from the New Kingdom and the Greco-Roman period. They can be divided into deity temples and tomb temples, which were devoted exclusively to the cult of the deceased ruler. The "standard" Egyptian temple consisted of pylons, a courtyard where the festivities were held, an appearance room, a sacrificial table room, a room for a deity's barge and, most often, three cult cells. There is no barge room in the mortuary temples, and the cell of the deities was replaced with a place of worship for the deceased king. The temple was always built from the inside outwards. They started from the central cell and this meant that subsequent rulers could expand the already existing layout.

You enter an open courtyard through the massive gate structure with high flagpoles. This area was filled with crowds of ordinary Egyptians during holiday periods. There was at least one pillared hall adjacent to the courtyard, in which a cult statue of the deity "appeared" on the occasion of holidays. High-ranking officials were allowed to enter this hall, while the rest of the temple complex was accessible only to the king and priests. The sacrificial table hall was used as a "dining room" when the local gods were visited by other deities from the surrounding temples. Real food was placed in front of the deities' statues, which were later eaten by the priests when the gods were full. In the adjoining room of the barge, a wooden ship was placed on a high platform and this is how the statue of the god was transported during processions or when the god was visiting other temples. In the rear part of the temple there was a cell, and in it a chapel with a statue of a deity, to whom the selected priests of high rank or the king himself paid homage every day. In Egyptian temples, three deities (triads) constituting the divine family were most often worshiped, and therefore usually three cult cells were located in them.

Within the temple complex, along the main road running in a straight line, there were treasuries, warehouses and archives, where valuables and decorations for deities, the food necessary for daily worship, and sacred texts were stored. Usually narrow side stairs led to the flat roofs of the temples; on festive days, the procession with the statue of the deity could ascend the roof to the chapel located there. Part of the temple complex was a sacred lake, used by priests for ritual ablutions. There was often a temple garden, and from the end of the Late Dynastic period, birth houses that were dedicated to the mother goddess in the holy triad and worshiped in the temple.

The temple district was surrounded by a brick wall, which was often decorated with the motif of a zigzag line, in the Egyptian convention of representing water. This wall symbolized the waters of the primordial ocean that once covered the earth, and from which the country emerged at the dawn of its history.

Karnak is one of the largest temple complexes in the world. Its history begins during the reign of the XII dynasty, when a small sanctuary of Amun - the main god of the state pantheon was established. Over a period of 1500 years, the temple complex was constantly expanded, with the addition of courtyards, storage rooms and pylons. Added to this was the sacred lake and numerous small temples of other deities that can still be seen today.

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