Karnak temple

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Pillars of the Hypostyle in the Temple of Amun-Re
Karnak Temple Complex
The entrance area to the Karnak Temple

The Karnak Temples are the largest temple complex in Egypt in Karnak , a village about 2.5 kilometers north of Luxor and directly on the eastern bank of the Nile . The oldest building remains of the temple that are still visible today date from the 12th dynasty under Sesostris I. The temple complex was expanded and rebuilt again and again until the Roman Empire .

The temple complex is since 1979 together with the Luxor Temple and the Theban necropolis on the World Heritage List of UNESCO .

The temple complex

View from the air

Outstanding among the ruins are the Temple of Amun-Re with a total of ten pylons , the largest of which is about 113 meters wide and about 15 meters thick and has a planned height of about 45 meters. The total area of ​​the temple is about 30 hectares (530, 515, 530 and 610 meters side length). In addition to the pylons, the large pillared hall, which was started by Haremhab and completed under Sethos I and Ramses II , is particularly impressive.

Statue of Ramses II with daughter Meritamun

The temple complex consists of three walled areas, the district of Amun ( ancient Egyptian Ipet-sut , "place of election"), the district of the month (150 × 156 meters, total area 2.34 hectares) and the district of courage (405 , 275, 295 and 250 meters side length, total area approx. 9.2 hectares). In addition to these three large temple districts, there is also the Aton temple, the Gem-pa-Aton , which Akhenaten had built in Karnak in the sixth year of his reign. In ancient times, an avenue , which was lined with 365 sphinxes on both sides , connected the Temple of Amun with the Temple of Luxor, about 2.5 km away . This road ended at the 10th pylon of the temple.

Purpose of the temple complex

After Amun-Res of Thebes was elevated to local god and later to imperial god, the rulers of the early Middle Kingdom began building a temple, which was expanded over millennia to become today's temple complex, where the Amun priesthood performed daily temple service. Temples were also built for Amun's wife, the goddess Mut , and their son, Chons , and together they formed the triad of Thebes. In addition to these three gods , a temple was also dedicated to the god Month , who was still the main god of Thebes in the 11th dynasty .

Upper part of the Hatshepsut obelisk on the Holy Lake

In the ancient Egyptian world of belief there is the principle of the cosmological order, this principle is called Maat . Since the Maat is not an immutable state and can be thrown off balance by humans, it is important to maintain this state in order to keep chaos and annihilation out of the world. An Egyptian temple is a model of the world. One of the king's primary duties was therefore to maintain the balance of the mate. This happened in the most sacred area of ​​the temple. In the temple, sacred ritual acts (sacrificial presentations, prayers and chants) were performed by the king or the high priest who represented him .

Building history

The earliest evidence of an Amun cult in Thebes comes from the Middle Kingdom . It is an octagonal column Antef II , which is now in the Museum of Luxor . The oldest building remains still visible today date from the time of Sesostris I. In the New Kingdom there was a lot of building activity and the temple complex soon reached enormous proportions. The temple was also built in the late and Greco-Roman times .

Districts of the temple complex of Karnak

District of Amun

Amun-Re Temple in Karnak

The largest area of ​​the complex is the Amun district . It houses the great temple of Amun-Re , the temple of Chons , the barque sanctuary of Ramses III., A temple of Ipet , and a small sanctuary of Ptah as well as the temple of Amenhotep II.

Temple of Amun-Re

The Temple of Amun-Re, also known as the Imperial Temple, is the largest Egyptian temple with a total of ten pylons. It is not a temple in the classical sense, but a collection of various sacred buildings built next to one another. Various parts of the temple were demolished and their building materials were reused in other parts. Only the center of the temple, from today's fourth pylon to the Ach-menu, as a particularly sacred area, remained untouched.

Pillars of the hypostyle
Reconstruction of the portico

One of the most important areas of the temple is the great pillared hall ( hypostyle ), which Haremhab began to build between the second and third pylon and which was later completed under Seti I and Ramses II. 134 papyrus columns that supported the wooden roof of the hypostyle once stood on an area 103 meters long and 53 meters wide . In the central nave of the hall, the columns were up to 22.5 meters high.


Also the Ach-menu or the festival temple of Thutmose III. It should be mentioned that it bears the ancient Egyptian name Men-cheper-Ra-ach-menu: "Glorious about monuments is Men-cheper-Ra" (Thutmose III.) or "Sublime is the memory of Men-cheper-Ra". In addition to these names, the term Millions of Years House can also be found, which suggests that the temple was dedicated to the cult of the king in his manifestation of Amun-Re.

Taharqa kiosk

The architecturally striking festival hall is often referred to as a marquee due to the arrangement of its columns. The higher central room consists of two rows of columns with ten columns each and is surrounded by lower aisles with a total of 32 columns. In the access to the Ach menu is the so-called King List of Karnak with the names of a total of 61 kings. The Ach-menu is located on the east-west axis of the temple district, but the north-south axis is also taken into account in the structural arrangement. In the back are the sanctuaries for the gods Sokar (south) and Amun-Re (north). In addition to the festival temple of Thutmose III. is the kiosk of the Taharqa .

During the restoration of the third pylon of the temple, built by Amenhotep III, building materials for the White Chapel , the Red Chapel and the Alabaster Chapel were discovered. North of the Amun Re Temple, the White Chapel of Sesostris I, the oldest surviving structure in the complex and the alabaster chapel were reconstructed from recovered building materials in the 20th century . At the beginning of the 21st century , the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut was also rebuilt here. The third pylon was originally about 98 meters long and about 14 meters wide. Since it is badly damaged today, only around a quarter of its original height of around 35 meters has been preserved.

White chapel

White chapel

The White Chapel (also Chapelle blanche) was built in the 12th Dynasty by Sesostris I from white limestone . It is the oldest surviving structure in the temple complex. On a 1.18 meter high base is a 6.54 × 6.54 meter kiosk , the roof of which is supported by four by four pillars . The White Chapel was built as a barque sanctuary and thus served as a station chapel for the gods' barge at various festivities . Like the Red Chapel and the Alabaster Chapel, the White Chapel stood in the area between the third and seventh pylon. The chapel was rebuilt in the open air museum of Karnak.

Red Chapel

Red Chapel

The Red Chapel was built by Queen Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty . Originally the chapel stood in the area between the third and seventh pylon. The chapel of Thutmose III was later built as a barque sanctuary. tore off. Amenhotep III had the blocks used as filling material for the third pylon. Restoration work uncovered 319 blocks of black granite and red quartzite from the chapel. The Red Chapel in the open-air museum of the temple complex was rebuilt from this material.

The sculptures of the Red Chapel show the coronation of Hatshepsut, sacrificial scenes and the Theban festivals such as the Opet festival. The chapel thus also houses the oldest representation of this festival.

Alabaster Chapel

Alabaster Chapel

The alabaster chapel, which was built in the 18th dynasty as a barque January by Thutmose IV , probably stood, like the red and white chapels, in the area between the third and seventh pylon.

Temple of Ramses III.

In the courtyard behind the first pylon is the temple of Ramses III on the right . Even today it is almost completely preserved and in very good condition. Behind a pylon with two colossal figures in front of it is the festival courtyard, each side lined with eight statue pillars. A small hall with four statue pillars follows the courtyard. This is followed by the hypostyle with two by four columns. Behind the hypostl there are three sanctuaries, dedicated to the gods Amun-Re, Mut and Chons. The similarity to Temple C in the Mut district is striking.

Holy lake

Holy lake

The sacred lake has a size of 120 × 77 meters and is located south of the central temple building. This lake has no supply lines, it is only fed by the groundwater . Next to the lake there was a small covered goose enclosure, which was connected to the lake via a corridor. The geese were the sacred animals of Amun. In addition, the priests took the water for washing the gods from the lake.

Temple of Opet

The temple of Opet was built by Ptolemy VIII during the Ptolemaic period. A staircase in a kiosk with four columns leads to the first courtyard through the gate of the first pylon. In the first courtyard there is another kiosk, also with four pillars. The second courtyard is higher, this is how the original hill is supposed to be represented. In the rear part of the temple there is an underground Osiris tomb and a crypt , here the metamorphosis of the god Amun-Re took place, who dies as Osiris , then enters the body of the Ipet-weret-Nut and is reborn as the god Chons.

Temple of Chons

Pylon of the Temple of Chons
Great hypostyle hall of the temple

The Temple of Chons is located on the southern edge in the district of Amun, it is about 80 meters long and 30 meters wide. The temple is exactly opposite the Luxor temple. During the 20th Dynasty, the temple was under Pharaoh Ramses III. and later by Ramses IV , Ramses XI. and Herihor completed. Behind the large entrance pylon there is a large hall with 28 columns. This is followed by a hypostyle with eight large columns and finally the center, the so-called hall of the barque .

Temple of Ptah

Gate in the Ptah temple

The temple of Ptah is located on the north wall of the Amun district and was originally surrounded by a wall. With the erection of the great wall around the Amun district, the forecourt to the temple was cut in size. Ptolemy III erected the small pylon of the temple, in which there are various interiors. There is a small kiosk in front of the pylon. The rest of the temple was already under Thutmose III. built. All temple parts that were built from stone are completely preserved.

Temple of Amenhotep II

Behind the tenth pylon is the temple of Amenophis II on the east side . A ramp leads to the entrance area, which forms an open pillar hall. A square hypostyle adjoins the pillar hall. To the north and south of the hypostyle there are other small rooms. The latest investigations have shown that it was not Amenhotep II who had the temple built in its current form, but that Seti I had the temple built by Amenhotep II using building materials from a demolished building.

District of the Month

To the north, right next to the large area of Amun-Re, there is a 151 × 155 m area with the Temple District of the Month. The surrounding wall dates from the time of Nectanebo I. The actual temple was built by Amenhotep III. built. In addition to the Temple of the Month is still a temple of Maat , the temple of the Harpare , built by Taharqa and the Treasury Thutmose located outside the perimeter I. The temple of the Month opens in the direction of approximately five kilometers away Month cult place al- Madamud from the temple entrance leads an avenue of sphinxes with 30 human-headed sphinxes on both sides to a quay that is no longer connected to the water.

District of courage

Statue of Sekhmet in the Mut district

About 350 m south of the Amun Re Temple is an area of ​​about 250 × 350 meters that includes the district of courage. It was connected to the temple of Amun-Re by an avenue of sphinxes with 66 sphinxes. In addition to the Temple of Mut, which is surrounded on three sides by a holy lake, there are still remains of a house where Ramses II was born for "Chonspachrod", a temple of Ramses III. and outside the wall the temple of Kamute. In 1840 the temples were largely demolished and used as building material for a factory.

Temple of Courage

The entrance pylon of the Temple of Mut was built by Seti II . In front of the pylon there were two shadow roofs supported by pillars, built by Taharqa . In the courtyard behind the first pylon, a colonnade is formed by four columns on both sides on its central axis. The gate in the second pylon leads to the festival courtyard, where the portico is continued by five columns on both sides. Seated statues of the goddess Sekhmet once stood in both courtyards. Behind the festival courtyard, one got into the hypostyle, the ceiling of which was originally supported by eight columns. Behind the hypostyle there is the barge-barge. The barque January was surrounded by several side rooms. The pronaos , an anteroom to the sanctuary , were reached through the barque January . The sanctuary of the temple consists of three cult image niches. Ptolemy II erected a counter- temple against the back wall of the temple . Most of the temple was demolished in 1840.

Temple A

Temple A is to the east of Mut Temple, to the right of the main gate just behind the enclosure wall. Temple A was built after Dieter Arnold by Ramses II , after Paul Barguet by Thutmose IV. The first of the three pylons was built from Nile mud bricks. Two statues located there bear the name of Ramses II, but were probably usurped . In the second pylon stone blocks from the 18th to the 22nd dynasty were reused. The third pylon is again assigned to Ramses II, the decorations date from his time. There are also different views on the meaning of the temple. According to Daumas, it is a barge-sanctuary dedicated to Chonspachrod (Chons the Child), according to Arnold it is a birthplace for Chonspachrod. Unfortunately, the few surviving paintings and reliefs do not allow a more precise determination.

Temple C

West of the Holy Lake, also called Ischeru or Ascheru, is the so-called Temple of C. Ramses III. had the temple dedicated to Amun, Mut and Chons built in the 20th Dynasty . Two monumental statues of Ramses III. originally lined the entrance in the first pylon of the temple. In the festival courtyard behind the first pylon there were eight statues on the right and left side. A ramp led to the end of the festival hall in a small pillared vestibule to the hypostyle, the ceiling of which was supported by four pillars. There were three storage rooms on each side of the hypostyle. The hypostyle led into an anteroom, which was followed by the three sanctuaries. The temple is badly destroyed, Ramses III. but could be clearly identified as the builder based on the Harris I papyrus .

Temple of Kamutef

Kamutef temple

The Kamuteftempel, built by Hatshepsut, stands northeast directly in front of the walled temple area of ​​Mut, on the 330 meter long avenue of sphinxes with 66 sphinxes on both sides. The stone temple house is approx. 38.5 × 48.5 meters in size. The temple house was surrounded by a brick wall, which opened in a pylon to the avenue of sphinxes. Thutmose III. later tried to destroy all references to the original builder, but the reliefs indicate that Hatshepsut was responsible for the installation.


Restored Talatat blocks from the Gem-pa-Aton

To the east of the Amun district there was an Aton sanctuary ( ancient Egyptian Gm-p3-Jtn , "the aton is found"), which Akhenaten probably built in the 6th year of his reign. The Aton Temple was about 130 × 200 meters, at the time it was larger than the Temple of Amun. Akhenaten ordered the closure of the other temples in Karnak and raised the sun god Aton to be the only god. After the original conditions were restored at the latest under Haremhab , the other temples of Karnak were reopened and the Gem-pa-Aton was completely demolished. Tens of thousands of Talatat blocks were reused as filling material in the buildings of Haremhab and his successors and have therefore been well or very well preserved. These blocks were mainly used for pylons 2, 9 and 10. Several hundred of these blocks have been restored and put back together in the Luxor Museum.

See also


(sorted chronologically)


  • Auguste Mariette : Karnak, étude topographique et archéologique, avec un appendice comprenant les principaux textes hiéroglyphiques découverts ou recueillis pendant les fouilles exécutées à Karnak. Paris 1875; Heinrichs, Leipzig 1875; Reprint d. Ed. Leipzig 1875: LTR-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1982, ISBN 3-88706-095-4 .
  • J. Vandier: Manuel d'archéologie égyptienne, tome II, Les grandes époques. 2, L'architecture religieuse et civile. Picard & Cie, Paris 1955.
  • Ludwig Borchardt : On the building history of the Temple of Amon from Karnak. (= Studies on the history and antiquity of Egypt. Vol. 5.1). Reprint of the Leipzig 1905–1912 edition, Olms, Hildesheim 1964.
  • Charles Francis Nims, Wim Swaan: Thebes of the Pharaos: pattern for every city. Elek Books, London 1965.
  • Eberhard Otto , Max Hirmer: Osiris and Amun. Cult and holy places. Hirmer, Munich 1966.
  • Kazimierz Michalowski: Karnak. VEB book and art publishing house, Leipzig 1970.
  • Jean-Claude Golvin, Jean-Claude Goyon: Karnak, Egypt, anatomy of a temple. Wasmuth, Tübingen 1990, ISBN 3-8030-1037-3 .
  • Dieter Arnold : The temples of Egypt. Apartments for gods, monuments, places of worship. Artemis & Winkler, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-86047-215-1 , pp. 109-27.
  • Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-491-96001-0 .
  • RA Schwaller de Lubicz: Temple of Karnak. Thames & Hudson, London 1999, ISBN 0-500-01923-1 .
  • Helen Strudwick, Nigel Strudwick: Thebes in Egypt: a guide to the tombs and temples of ancient Luxor. British Museum Press, London 1999, ISBN 0-7141-1918-0 .
  • Sergio Donadoni: Thebes, Holy City of the Pharaohs. Hirmer, Munich 2000, ISBN 978-3-7774-8550-8 .
  • Gabriele Höber-Kamel (Ed.): Karnak - home of the gods. Kemet Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISSN  0943-5972
  • Alberto Siliotti: Luxor, Karnak, and the Theban Temples. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo / New York 2002, ISBN 977-424-641-1 .
  • Richard H. Wilkinson: The world of temples in ancient Egypt. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-18652-4 , pp. 152-65.
  • Elizabeth Blyth: Karnak: Evolution of a Temple. Routledge, London / New York 2006, ISBN 0-415-40487-8 .

Questions of detail

  • Eberhard Otto: Topography of the Theban Gaues (= studies of the history and antiquity of Egypt. Vol. 16) Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1952.
  • Herbert Ricke: The Kamutef Shrine Hatshepsut and Thutmoses' III. in Karnak. Report on an excavation in front of the mother temple district. Swiss Institute for Egyptian Building Research and Antiquity, Cairo 1954.
  • Gun Björkman: Kings at Karnak. A Study of the Treatment of Monuments of Royal Predecessors in the Early New Kingdom. Universitet Uppsala, Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm 1971.
  • Beatrix Gessler-Löhr: The sacred lakes of Egyptian temples. A contribution to the interpretation of sacred architecture in ancient Egypt. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1983, ISBN 3-8067-8080-3 .
  • G. Haeny: To the Kamutef. In: Göttinger Miscellen . (GM) No. 90, Göttingen 1986, p. 33 f.
  • Heike Sternberg-el Hotabi : The Propylon of the Month Temple in Karnak-Nord. On the decoration principle of the gate and the translation and commentary of the documents VIII., Texts No. 1 to No. 50. (= Göttinger Orientforschungen. IV. Series: Egypt. Volume 25). Göttingen 1993.
  • Ali El-Sharkawy: The Amun Temple at Karnak. The function of the great portico. Köster, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-89574-290-2 .
  • Labib Habachi : The immortal obelisks of Egypt. Revised and expanded new edition by Carola Vogel. von Zabern, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-8053-2658-0 .

Web links

Commons : Karnak Temple  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 23. → Amun district (Karnak).
  2. Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis - UNESCO World Heritage Center
  3. a b Dieter Arnold: The temples of Egypt. Apartments for gods, monuments, places of worship. Zurich 1992, pp. 111-123.
  4. a b c d Calculated by F. Traunecker; see Dieter Arnold: The temples of Egypt. Apartments for gods, monuments, places of worship. Zurich 1992, pp. 114–115.
  5. Wolfgang Helck , Rosemarie Drenkhahn, Eberhard Otto: Small Lexicon of Egyptology. 4th, revised edition, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 978-3-447-04027-3 , pp. 141f. → Karnak.
  6. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 110f. → Hypostyle (pillared hall).
  7. Thomas Kühn: The Pharaonic Egypt. In honor of Amun - Thutmose III's building projects in Karnak. In: Kemet. The magazine for friends of Egypt. No. 10,3, Berlin 2001, pp. 33-38.
  8. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 13f. → Achmenu.
  9. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 48. → Chapelle blanche.
  10. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 48. → Chapelle rouge.
  11. ^ Matthias Seidel, Regine Schulz: Art & Architecture. Egypt. Ullmann, Potsdam 2009, ISBN 978-3-8331-5411-9 .
  12. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 214. → Ramses III. (Karnak).
  13. Alessandro Roccati: Egypt: Classic Travel Destinations: the Temples of Karnak and Kuxor. Atlantis, Herrsching 1989, ISBN 3-88199-552-8 , pp. 20-21.
  14. Giovanna Magi: Luxor . Casa Editrice Bonechi, Florence 2005, ISBN 88-7009-619-X , The Temple of Karnak, p. 26 .
  15. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 180. → Opet-Tempel (Karnak).
  16. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 54f. → Chons Temple (Karnak).
  17. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 196f. → Ptah Temple (Karnak).
  18. Thomas Kühn: The house of Amun in Karnak . In: Gabriele Höber-Kamel (Ed.): Karnak - home of the gods (= Kemet issue 1/2001), Kemet-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISSN  0943-5972 , pp. 9–22 (The North-South Axis) .
  19. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, pp. 165f. → Monzh district (Karnak).
  20. Dieter Arnold: The temples of Egypt: dwellings for gods, monuments, places of worship. Pp. 123-125.
  21. ^ A b c Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 167f. → Mut district (Karnak).
  22. a b Dieter Arnold: The temples of Egypt: dwellings for gods, monuments, places of worship , p. 125
  23. ^ Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto, Wolfhart Westendorf: Lexicon of Egyptology. Volume III: Horhekenu - Megeb. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1980, ISBN 978-3-447-02100-5 , Sp. 348.
  24. ^ Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto, Wolfhart Westendorf: Lexicon of Egyptology. Volume IV: Building a pyramid - stone vessels. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1984, ISBN 978-3-447-02489-1 , Sp. 250.
  25. Gabriele Höber-Kamel: The temple district of courage in Karnak In Kemet No. 1, 2001, pp. 38–40
  26. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 120. → Kamutef Temple (Karnak.)
  27. ^ Dieter Arnold: Lexicon of Egyptian architecture. Düsseldorf 2000, p. 30. → Aton district (Karnak).
  28. Dieter Arnold: The temples of Egypt. Apartments for gods, monuments, places of worship. Zurich 1992, p. 126f.

Coordinates: 25 ° 43 ′ 7 ″  N , 32 ° 39 ′ 31 ″  E