Cult temple dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The largest religious building ever constructed. The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples built over 2,000 years and dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. This derelict place is still capable of overshadowing many wonders of the modern world and in its day must have been awe-inspiring. For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population, this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years. The area of the sacred enclosure of Amun alone is sixty-one acres and could hold ten average European cathedrals. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls. The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet (16,459 meters) and featuring 134 columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake – 423 feet by 252 feet (129 by 77 meters). The sacred barges of the Theban Triad once floated on the lake during the annual Opet festival. The lake was surrounded by storerooms and living quarters for the priests, along with an aviary for aquatic birds. The Egyptians believed that towards the end of annual agricultural cycle the gods and the earth became exhausted and required a fresh input of energy from the chaotic energy of the cosmos. To accomplish this magical regeneration the Opet festival was held yearly at Karnak and Luxor. It lasted for twenty-seven days and was also a celebration of the link between pharaoh and the god Amun. The procession began at Karnak and ended at Luxor Temple, one and a half miles (2.4 kilometres) to the south. The statue of the god Amun was bathed with holy water, dressed in fine linen, and adorned in gold and silver jewellery. The priests then placed the god in a shrine and onto the ceremonial barque supported by poles for carrying. Pharaoh emerged from the temple, his priests carrying the barque on their shoulders, and together they moved into the crowded streets. A troop of Nubian soldiers serving as guards beat their drums, and musicians accompanied the priests in song as incense filled the air. At Luxor, (right) Pharaoh and his priests entered the temple and ceremonies were performed to regenerate Amun, recreate the cosmos and transfer Amun’s power to Pharaoh. When he finally emerged from the temple sanctuary, the vast crowds cheered him and celebrated the guaranteed fertility of the earth and the expectation of abundant harvests. During the festival the people were given over 11000 loaves of bread and more than 385 jars of beer, and some were allowed into the temple to ask questions of the god. The priests spoke the answers through a concealed window high up in the wall, or from inside hollow statues. The first pylon is the last to be built at Karnak and is the main entrance into the temple today. It was never completed and is undecorated; even the remains of the mud brick ramps, used to build, it can still be seen inside the great court. The north tower is about 71 feet (21.70m), and the south tower 103 feet (31.65m). If the structure had been completed it would probably reached a height of between 124 feet (38m) to 131 feet (40m). It was built by Nectanebo I (380-362 BC) who also built the huge enclosure wall surrounding Karnak and some scholars believe that an earlier pylon may have stood on this same spot.An avenue of sphinxes leads to the pylon. These sphinxes are ram-headed, symbolizing the god Amun and a small effigy of Ramesses II, in the form of Osiris, stands between their front paws. The Kiosk of Tahraqa, Taharqa was the fourth king of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty and also king of his native Kush; located in Northern Sudan. The remains of this huge kiosk, built by 25th Dynasty pharaoh Taharqa (690-664 B.C.) originally consisted of ten twenty-one meter high papyrus columns linked by a low screening wall. Today there is only one great column still standing. It is believed that it was a barque chapel (or Station) although some Egyptologists think it may have been used in ritual activities to join with the sun. Statue of Ramesses II, The statue was usurped by Ramesses VI (1143-1136 BC) and later by Pinedjem a High Priest (1070- 1032). The king wears the nemes headdress with the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and his arms are crossed, holding crook and flail; symbols of kingship. At his feet, Princess Bent’anta holds a flower and wears an Uraeus crown of rearing cobras. Her name Bent’anta (Bintanath, Bint-Anath, Bintanat) is Syrian, meaning Daughter of Anath, referring to the Canaanite goddess Anath. Her mother was Isetnofret, one of Ramesses’s most important wives.The Second Pylon, Before the later Shoshenq court is the second pylon. It was built by Horemheb (1323-1295 B.C.) who filled the interior of the pylon with thousands of stone blocks from demolished monuments built by the Heretic king, Akhenaten. But it was unfinished and only partly decorated at his death. Ramesses I later completed the decoration and replaced all of Horemheb’s cartouches with his own and it was again usurped by his grandson Ramesses II. Today the second pylon’s outer wall is severely damaged and its original height is unknown. Karnak Temple Barque Chapel of Ramesses III, Ramesses III (1184–1153 BC) built a bark shrine south of the second pylon, which was later enclosed by the court yard constructed by Shoshenq I (943-922 BC). The shrine’s entrance was fronted by a small pylon adorned with scenes of the king smiting his enemies and two six meter statues carved from red sandstone flanked the door way. Inside, the first court is lined with Osride statues of the king; the west side wear the red crown of the south, while those on the east side wear the white crown of the north. Beyond the court is a vestibule also fronted by Osiride pillars leading into a small hypostyle hall which in turn leads into three chapels for the barques of Karnak. Karnak Temple Hypostyle Hall, The massive columns in the hypostyle hall dwarfs the people and there is still some paint surviving on the under side of the capitals. The hall covers an area of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 sq meters) and filled with 134 gigantic stone columns with 12 larger columns standing 80 feet (24 m) high lining the central aisle. The hall was built by Seti I who inscribed the northern wing. The outer walls depict Seti’s battles. The southern wing was completed by Ramesses II but he usurped the decorations of his father along the main processional walk ways. The south wall is inscribed with a record of Ramesses II’s peace treaty with the Hittites which he signed in 21st year of his reign. Later pharaohs including Ramesses III, Ramesses IV and Ramesses VI added inscriptions to the walls and the columns. Festival Hall of Thutmose III, Thutmose III named it the “Most Splendid of Monuments”. Its entrance was originally flanked by two statues of the king wearing a festival costume. The roof is supported on the outside by thirty-two square pillars, while the inside is supported by tent pole style columns symbolising the military tent that Thutmose would have used on campaign.On the northeast end is a stairway leading to a room called the “Chamber of the Clepsydras”. Clepsydras were water clocks made from a stone vessel with a tiny hole at the bottom which allowed water to drip at a constant rate. The passage of hours could be measured from marks spaced at different levels. The priests at Karnak temple used them at night to determine the correct hour to perform religious rites. Karnak Temple Sacred Lake, Karnak Temple Sacred Lake is the largest of its kind and was dug by Tuthmosis III (1473-1458 BC). It measures 393 feet (120m) by 252 feet (77m) and is lined with stone wall and has stairways descending into the water. The lake was used by the priests for ritual washing and ritual navigation. It was also home to the sacred geese of Amun (the goose being another symbol of Amun) and was a symbol of the primeval waters from which life arose in the ancient Egyptian’s idea of creation.
It was surrounded by storerooms and living quarters for the priests. There was also an aviary for aquatic birds. The pylon of Thutmose III, The seventh pylon shows Thutmose III wearing the red crown and smiting his enemies with a club. there is also a list of 119 Palestinian towns that were conquered during his first campaigns and a further 240 names cities between Labanon and the Euphrates which he took in year 33rd of his reign during his eighth campaign. Two badly damaged colossi site in front of the pylon. But these statues were carved in hard red Aswan granite and the remaining parts are still well defined. The first court behind the seventh pylon is called the court of the Cachette because 20,000 statues and stelae were discovered buried there at the beginning of the twentieth century; the largest find of statuary ever made in Egypt. Egyptologists believe these objects were votive offerings given by devout worshipers to the temple. Over time the collection grew so numerous and cluttered the priests, unable to remove such sacred objects from the precinct, had buried them to clear some space. Before the seventh innermost pylon, is the eighth, ninth and tenth which is the last pylon at Karnak. Horemheb built the Tenth Pylon by reusing stone blocks from a temple built by Akhenaten. The pylon of Khonsu, Khonsu was the son of Amun and Mut, with whom he formed the Theban triad. He was a moon god depicted as a man with a falcon-head wearing a crescent moon headdress surmounted by the full lunar disc. Like Thoth, who was also a lunar deity, he is sometimes represented as a baboon. Khonsu was believed to have the ability to drive out evil spirits. Rameses II sent a statue of Khonsu to a friendly Syrian king in order to cure his daughter of an illness. His temple, within the precincts of Karnak, was built by Ramesses III it consists of a peristyle court which is bordered by a portico of twenty-eight columns. There is also a hypostyle hall which is connected to the sanctuary of the barque with chapels open to the left and right and a staircase leading to the roof. The whole pylon, built by measures 113 feet (34.5m) in length and 59 feet (18m) high. Four grooves are cut on its facade to house masts with banners. In front of the pylon are the remnants of a colonnade bordered by a row of sphinxes.