Ancient Egypt art, the Egyptian temple and its components

The Egyptian temple is one of the important items about the ancient Egypt art.

The word “r-pr” and “ḥwt-nṯr” in ancient Egyptian language are terms used to describe the temple from the archaic period till the Ptolemaic period.

The word “r-pr” means the place of offerings; it was also used to refer to the false door as its main function is to mark the place of offerings.

The word “ḥwt-nṯr” means the house of the god which clearly describes the main function of the temple.

The Temple consists of 6 elements:

  • The avenue of sphinx
  • The pylon
  • The open court
  • The hypostyle hall
  • The sanctuary
  • The enclosure wall

Avenue of Sphinx

Avenue of Sphinx, Egyptian art
Avenue of Sphinx

It is the way that usually leads to the entrance of the temple or it connects between two temples.

It either contains sphinx statues representing the lion’s body with human heads which are, in this case, referring to the king or it contains ram-headed status, in this case, it refers to god Amen.

In the ancient Egyptian language, the avenue of the sphinx is called “wȝt- nṯr” which means the way of the god.

This explains the main function of the avenue which is to protect the procession of the god when he comes in or goes out of the temple during festivals.

The pylon

The pylon in the Egyptian temple
The pylon, ancient Egypt art

It is a huge high gate between two huge towers which are decorated from the top by cavetto cornice. The word pylon is originally a Greek word, however, the ancient Egyptian word for the pylon is known as “Bḫnt”.

The two towers are usually decorated with scenes representing the king smiting his enemies.

Also in front of the pylon, there are always representations of seated colossal statues of the king who erected the pylon as well as obelisks.

The pylon represents the “ȝḫt” sign which means the “Horizon”. The two towers of the pylon represent the eastern and the western mountains of the “ȝḫt” sign.

As for the solar disc on the top of the “ȝḫt, ” it represents the sanctuary which contains the statue of the god.

The open court

Open court, Egyptian temple
The open court, ancient Egypt Art

It is the widest open place in the temple. It is surrounded from all side by columns. Sometimes these columns are decorated by Osirid statues.

These statues are probably for the king who erected or decorated the court. The Egyptians called this part of the temple “wsḫt ḥbyt” which means the “court of festivals”.

The main function of this court is to receive representatives of the high officials who are coming to attend the festivals.

Also in this court, you could see private statues placed by their owners in the open court for two reasons:

  • To receive and share offerings and prayers given by the visitors to the gods.
  • For the statues to be revived by the power of the sun.

The hypostyle hall

Hypostyle hall, Egyptian temple
Hypostyle hall, Ancient Egypt art

This hall is different from the open court as it has a roof.

This roof is supported by columns. The hall is divided into 3 aisles, the central aisle is higher than the other ones and its roof is supported by open papyrus capitals.

As for the side aisles, they are wider in size than the central aisles and their roofs are supported by columns with closed papyrus capitals.

Windows are built in the central aisles to allow the light and air to enter and so that is why the capitals of papyrus are opened.

The name of this hall in hieroglyphics is “wsḫt-hˁyt” which means the hall of shining.

This explains the main function of the hall which is to allow the statue of the god to shine after it comes out of the darkness of the sanctuary. The papyrus columns in this hall imitate the marches of the Delta in which Isis and Hathor lived.

The sanctuary

ancient Egypt art, the sanctuary
The sanctuary in ancient Egyptian temple
This is the most important and the darkest part of the temple.

It is known as the “st wrt” which means the great throne. It is usually located at the end of the temple in the center of the sanctuary; there is a naos that contains the statue of the god.

Festivals are held in the sanctuary by priests upon the statue of the god twice a day. Once during dawn and once during sunset in order to revive the spirit of the god.

The Enclosure Wall

It is a large hall surrounding the temple. It is originally built by mud bricks. It is usually a wavy enclosure wall to indicate the primeval ocean.

Thus the temple is surrounded by the primeval ocean the same as in the creation mythology of the Heliopolitan cult. The Egyptian temple considers as an integral part of the Egyptian art.

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