Essential Architecture-  Egypt

The Temple of Luxor






New Kingdom, 18th-20th Dynasties (about 1570-1085 BCE)


Ancient Egyptian




Luxor was an important political and religious center since it was part of the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt. The Temple of Luxor, located near the banks of the Nile, was dedicated to the veneration of Amon (who was associated with Mut and Khonsu, the Theban triad).
The temple has a more unified plan than some Egyptian temples (Karnak, for example) because it was essentially the work of only three pharaohs: Amenophis III (also known as Amenhotep III), Tutankhamen, and Ramses II. In general, each new addition was situated in front of the older section; thus we encounter the temple in reverse chronological order. It has the typical Egyptian temple features: an entrance pylon (two trapezoidal units with walls sloping inward which frame the entrance), courtyards with porticoes, a hypostyle hall (or forest of tall columns), and at the end of the longitudinal axis, a sacred area, with the sanctuary, a birth house, and other small rooms, not accessible to the ancient public. Untypically, the temple has a north-south axis, in part determined by its relationship to the Nile River, and in part by its ritual connection with the Temple of Karnak. In ancient times a 2-mile long boulevard of sphinxes connected the two temples; originally these sphinxes had ram heads (Amon's symbol) but they were replaced with human-headed sphinxes in the 30th Dynasty.

Today the Mosque and Mausoleum of Abu el Hagag intrudes into the Courtyard of Ramses (it's also at a higher level since shifting sands had heightened the land level); this Mosque is essentially a 19th century structure, although the north minaret was constructed in 11th century.

The temple is about 850 feet long and about 213 feet across the front. In the schematic below, the Nile River is across the road from the temple. The west side of the temple is adjacent to the modern street.

The large pylon front, a kind of triumphal entrance, is about 213 feet across. Two granite colossi of Ramses II on a throne (about 51 feet high) frame the entrance; originally four standing statues of Ramses II also were placed in front of the pylon. In addition, an 82 foot obelisk stands at the ceremonial entrance; it is placed on a base with ithyphallic baboons in relief. (See also Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.) This obelisk's twin is in the Place de la Concorde, Paris. The pylon has four vertical indentations for the placement of flagstaffs. Inscriptions on the pylon cite Ramses II as the builder of the temple, even though he is only responsible for the pylon and the first courtyard. Bas-reliefs on the front depict scenes of military campaigns, specifically Ramses' battles with the Hittites in the fifth year of his reign.

With special thanks to the Digital Imaging Project
Images copyright Mary Ann Sullivan.