Ancient Egyptian temples

The temple was the focus of Egyptian state religion. It was not, however, a place of communal worship. Instead, after rigorous purification, the king and his priestly delegates conducted the rituals and made the offerings needed to please the god and maintain universal order. Public participation took place only during festivals, when the god left his temple.

Architecturally, temples were a metaphor for the universe and creation. The floor rose through courts and halls of columns shaped like papyrus and lotus plants. The ceilings were decorated with stars. The sanctuary was at the highest point, representing the Primeval Mound (the seat of creation). The east-west orientation of most temples meant that the sun rose between the towers of the monumental gateway and set over the shrine. The interior decoration of the temple showed the king performing the cult rituals of the god, while the exterior showed him repelling the forces of chaos.

Temples also played a pivotal role in the economy of Egypt. Each was endowed with large areas of agricultural land, employing large workforces. The main temple was surrounded by buildings such as granaries, storerooms and slaughterhouses, where offerings were processed and stored. These daily offerings were usually redistributed among the priesthood and other staff.

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