Luxor Temple – Egypt Temples

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Temple of Luxor, the temple of the Southern Apt or Opet. Here Amun-Min, the fertility aspect of Amun, was worshipped with Mut and Khonso, who formed the Triad of Thebes. The temple runs parallel to the river and is therefore aligned from North to South, not from East to West. Additionally, the pylon and first court are slightly angled to the axis of the main temple, presumably to include an earlier shrine to the Theban Triad. An earlier 12 Dynasty. the temple stood towards the South end of the site and some limestone blocks from the earlier edifice have been recovered under that of the 18 Dynasty.

As this is a much smaller and more compact unit than the Karnak temple and much easier to understand, it is advisable to visit it first. Unfortunately, the temple has been much damaged by flooding; salt encrustation shows clearly on the walls up to the point where it was filled with debris which Maspero began to clear in 1883.

Entering the temple from the North, before the main body of the temple runs the 30 Dynasty. Avenue of Sphinxes, revealed by recent excavations of the OEA, extending towards Karnak. These sphinxes, with human heads, bear dedications of Nectanebo I. The way was paved with sandstone slabs and has been excavated as far as the al-Magashgish mosque which has precluded further northward clearance. To the E are the remains of a small 25 Dynasty. Chapel of Taharqa dedicated to Hathor, which excavations show had been removed except for the foundations, some 5m thick. Of the Chapel of Serapis built by Hadrian no trace remains. In its heyday, the Luxor Temple would have been enclosed behind tall temenos walls. Around the whole complex are the remains of a Roman brick town.

Temple of Luxor

Standing in front of the pylon were two obelisks and six colossal figures of Ramesses II, two seated and four standing. The two red granite obelisks were presented by Mohamed Ali Pasha to France in 1819 and the one on the West, 22.8m high, was removed (now in the Place de la Concorde in Paris), but fortunately the E obelisk, 25m high, is still in place. Two seated figures flank the entrance but of the standing figures the two to the East were also given to France (now in the Louvre) and only one of the two on the West remains in place. The Pylon of Ramesses II (originally 24m high and 65m wide) has part of the top course missing. The outer face shows scenes of the Battle of Kadesh, the battle in” the upper register and the camp with chariots below. On the lower part is the battle record and the poem of Ramesses. In the entrance passage of the pylon “are carvings of Shabaka (25 Dynasty) showing the king before Amun and Amunet. On the inner E face of the pylon is a continuation of the record of the Battle of Kadesh; on the W side is a dedication inscription. The temple’s lower courses are heavily salt-encrusted.

Beyond the pylon is the large Peristyle Court, also built by Ramesses II. This embraces a small earlier Triple Shrine or way station built by Tuthmosis III which must originally have stood in the clear space before the temple. It is to the right of the entrance. Unlike the pylon and surrounding columns, it is of granite and the work is of a greater delicacy. The three shrines are dedicated to Amun (centre), Mut (W) and Khonsu (E). In the Amun shrine Tuthmosis is shown running towards Amun and there are additional cartouches of Merneptah. Both the shrines of Mut and Khonsu show the sacred boats. Around the court is a double row of 74 papyrus-bud columns (not of the finest quality) showing Ramesses before different deities. These arcades used to be roofed. On the E wall are scenes of the king offering to Min, and being received by Montu; most of the texts are of Ramesses II but Pinudjem and his family also appear. On the W side of the S wall is a picture of the pylon in all its glory with flags flying. Also on the last two walls are the family of Ramesses II, 17 of his sons, and by the E gate the queen and royal children. This court contains a large number of statues of Ramesses II, several usurped. Some others belong to the early stage in his reign when they were made as idealised portraits of the young king.

The left-hand gallery has not been excavated and the columns are still buried up to the capitals, the height of the debris prior to Mariette’s clearance. The reason for this is that the space is occupied by the Mosque of Abû ‘l-Haggâg. Most of the mosque, including the minaret, is 19C, but the N minaret is much older. It is one of a series erected through Southern Egypt by Badr al-Gaméli to mark his victories over the Nubians in 1077. It is interesting as a provincial contrast to the minaret of Badr’s own mosque in Cairo

Yùsuf Abû ΗHaggâg, a descendant of the khalif Ali, was born in Baghdad с 1150. He became a tailor, married and raised three sons. By the age of 40, however, his beloved wife and parents had died, which. together with his disgust with the administration of the khalif al-Nasir (1180—1225). caused him to move with his sons to Mecca (c 1185). Here his sons married and he was advised by other sharifs in the city to seek quietude in Egypt. So he made the journey with his sons and their families and after visiting several cities arrived at Luxor c 1193 where he settled. His piety gained him a wide reputation; Sultan al-Aziz invited him to Cairo and offered him an official post. He did not stay in Cairo long but travelled to Alexandria which at this time was a meeting place for the foremost sufi masters from the eastern and western lands of Islam. Among others, he met Abû Al—Abbâs al-Mursi, Abû Al-Hasan al-Shadhili and Abd al-Razzãq al-Jazúlí, the leader of the Madyani brotherhood. He became a student of al-Jazuli and returned to Luxor where he maintained a zawiya in the mosque on top of the Temple of Luxor. He died in 1243 over 90 years old and was buried in a tomb in the same mosque. Many of his descendants still live in the area. He is considered one of the greatest shaykhs of Southern Egypt and his mùlid, held on the 14 Shaban, is visited by thousands of people from all over the country. The ceremony involves a procession in, which a large boat is paraded around the town. Parallels have been drawn between this ceremony and those in ancient times in which one of the gods was taken from their own temple to that of another in a boat. At Karnak, this was the Feast of Opet. However, although appurtenances may be the same the basis is very different. In Islamic symbolism, the boat is often considered as a vehicle for spiritual knowledge and thus the procession may well focus the attention of the populace upon the search for this.

The mud-brick minaret stands on a stone lintel of the ancient temple. It has a base 4.5m square which tapers slightly. Wooden beams strengthen the sides and at the top of this section, there are small buttresses at the corners. Above this is a tapering cylindrical shaft surmounted by a small dome surrounded by crenellations. Although the ancient mosque is cracked and the Dept of Antiquities has built a new mosque just outside the walls to the west, this building is greatly venerated and the worshippers refuse to move. Between the columns on the S side are several standing statues of Ramesses II (some damaged).

Leading S is a passage flanked on both sides by two seated statues of Ramesses II. Those on the N side are inscribed with the name of Ramesses but bear the features of Tutankhamun representing Amun and Mut. Next is a Colonnade built by Amenhotep but usurped by Horemheb, consisting of 14 large open-papyrus capital columns arranged to make a tall processional avenue. Perhaps it was originally intended by Amenhotep as the first step towards the construction of a hypostyle hall, or as a professional way leading to a pylon. It is walled in a long rectangular court decorated by Tutankhamun and Horem- heb with scenes of the feast of Opet in the NW corner continuing round to the NE corner. First is the representation of the gate of the Karnak temple with the procession issuing from it, consisting of the portable sacred boats, carried by priests, a troop of soldiers with standards and musical instruments, one of the sacred boats towed by a rowing vessel, a group of Nubians with music, and two royal chariots led by grooms. The presentation of food and drink by Tutankhamun to Amun and Mut follows, with piled offering tables before their shrines. The reliefs are of the high quality and delicate outline of the best 18 Dyn. work.

The colonnade leads into the Court ofAmenhotep III

The colonnade leads into the Court of Amenhotep III (52m by 46m), which, like the Court of Ramesses, is a peristyle court surrounded on three sides by double rows of columns with papyrus-bud capitals. This court is the glory of the Temple of Luxor and is an example of the best 18 Dynasty. work. The columns are well proportioned and in a good state of preservation except at the N end. Originally the colonnade was covered, which would have provided the court with charming Chiaroscuro, but the roofing blocks have gone. The account is given in the king’s building inscriptions, referring to the rebuilding of the earlier 12 Dynasty. temple in the S part of the building affords some idea of its original splendour.

‘He made it as a monument for his father Amun-Re’ king of the gods, erecting for him the temple anew, of fine white sandstone, made very high and wide, adorned with electrum throughout, a place of rest for Amun…’.

The Hypostyle Hall, sometimes called the Vestibule, leads off the last court to the S and consists of 32 bud columns grouped in four rows of eight. In front of the central columns are fragments of an architrave with the cartouches of the 13 Dyn. king Sobekhotep III which must have come from the earlier temple. Ramesses IV and VI have usurped the columns by inscribing their cartouches. On the E wall Amenhotep is shown bringing offerings before Amun and Amunet and killing a gazelle before the god. To the S open four long rooms, three of which are chapels; those on each side of the central doorway to Khonsu and one on the E to Mut. Against the doors of these are dedicatory inscriptions of Ramesses 11 indicating that he had repaired the temple. The other room on the W has stairs leading to the roof. On the side of the hall is a Roman altar dedicated to Emperor Constantine (AD 324—37).

The hypostyle hall opens S into the First Antechamber which originally had eight columns, but these were removed when the chamber was turned into a Christian Church in the 4C. On the S wall where the entrance to the sanctuary should have been, an apsidal recess flanked by two granite columns was built, and the reliefs of Amenhotep III were covered with a thick coat of whitewash and fine Christian paintings [now almost completely destroyed). Amenhotep can still be seen on the S wall kneeling before Amun-Re and a lion-headed goddess. On the N wall, there are scenes of a procession with priests and musicians including the king (defaced) going to worship Amun. When the temple was converted to a church dismantled sections like screen walls and column drums were placed under the pavement; these confirm that Shabaka in the 25 Dyn. built a colonnade in front of the temple.

Beyond is the smaller Second Antechamber with four columns. On the walls the king is shown driving sacred calves to be killed before the god, offering incense, chests, sistra and sceptres to Amun-Re’. This was the offering chapel that stood in front of the next room, the Sanctuary of the Sacred Boat. Originally another antechamber with four columns, it was converted to a sanctuary by Alexander the Great who built the chapel opening N and S in the centre of the chamber. This sanctuary probably replaced an earlier wooden shrine which, in turn, may have replaced a stone one. Alexander’s dedication indicated it was more of a replacement than an original: ‘He made it as a monument for his father Amun-Re’, in white stone, with doors of acacia inlaid with gold, as it was in the time of Amenhotep III’. It is decorated with scenes of Alexander before Amun, Mut and Khonsu, and he is shown presenting a feather crown and vases to Amun. The king is also shown making offerings to the sacred boat of Amun. To the E a passage leads out into a side room, with three columns and much-damaged reliefs, from which in turn a door leads to the Birth Room. This is of great interest because here Amenhotep claims divinity as the son of Amun-Re, one of the main reasons for his extensive rebuilding work at this temple.

In common with other such scenes, it is rather confusing. Starting at the bottom from right to left Amun—Re”, Hathor and Tuthmosis IV’s wife, Queen Mutemwia, are embracing. Amun, disguised as Tuthmosis IV, is led by Thoth into the queen’s chamber. Then Amun and the queen are seated together on the symbol for heaven supported by the goddesses Selket and Neith. Amun reveals his divinity, holds ‘the breath of life’ to the queen’s nostrils and instructs that the forthcoming child be called Amenhotep. He instructs Khnum to model Amenhotep and his double (ka) on the potter’s wheel after which Hathor gives life to one of the figures. In the 2nd register (left to right) the queen is taken to the birthroom by Khnum and Hathor, then the goddesses who preside over the birth present the child to Amun. Next, children are shown suckled by cows and goddesses and the last scene shows Amenhotep as a fully grown man, purified and blessed by the gods.

The last Transverse Hall, with 12 bud columns, is sometimes called another antechamber but must have originally been intended as a hypostyle hall. Sadly the scenes, of excellent workmanship, are very damaged. At the entrance to the sanctuary to the S, there is a scene of the king in front of a tree before Arnun-Re’ and the king followed by the goddesses of the South and North, Nekhbet and Wadjet. The Sanctuary is a small square room with four columns. Here the god represented is Amun-Min. On each side, there are two small two-columned rooms. The back SW comer of the temple is severely damaged, as is part of the E wall.

To avoid returning the length of the temple it is possible to leave by the Е gate. The outside walls on the W are covered with further inscriptions and designs representing the Battle of Kadesh. Beginning on the N end in the upper register they show the attack on the city of Dapur (in Syria), and the king attacking the enemy with his chariots. The lower register shows the king attacking a fortress in Naharayn.

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