The Karnak temple complex—one of the largest religious buildings ever constructed


The Karnak Temple Complex was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years; it was the place of the Gods, and it is the largest open-air museum and one the largest religious sites in the world.

Karnak—aka the fortified city—referred in Ancient Egypt as Ipet sut, “most select of places.”

The complex is a city of temples built more than 2,000 years ago on the eastern bank of the Nile River, near Luxor.

It is part of the monumental city of Thebes, and home to a number of incredible ancient structures.

Considered as a large open-air museum and the largest religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple of Cambodia, the temple complex at Karnak is believed to be the most visited ancient site in Egypt after the Giza plateau.

Ancient columns with stone reliefs and Egyptian hieroglyphs at the Karnak Temple Complex in Egypt. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The temples built there were massive. In fact, the great temple located at the center of Karnak is so enormous that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls.

Furthermore, the Hypostyle Hall, which covers a mindboggling 54,000 square feet with 123 columns is considered the most extensive roof of ANY religious building on the surface of the planet. Interestingly, 122 of these columns rise a staggering 10 meters into the air, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall having a diameter of more than three meters.

There are four main parts: The Precinct of Amun-Re, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu and the Temple of Amenhotep IV, which was intentionally dismantled.

The Precinct of Amun-Re is the largest of the temple complex. It is dedicated entirely to Amun-Re, a major ancient Egyptian deity. Interestingly, as the chief deity of the Egyptian Empire, Amun-Ra also came to be worshipped outside of ancient Egypt.

View of the Karnak temple in the evening – Luxor, Egypt. Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to the testimony of ancient Greek historiographers in Libya and Nubia, Amun-Re was known as Zeus Ammon, and he came to be identified with Zeus in Greece.

One of the most incredible features about the Precinct of Amun-Re is the fact that the sandstone for this temple, including all the columns, was transported from Gebel Silsila 100 miles away, and its largest obelisk, standing a mindboggling 29 meters tall has a weight of nearly 330 tons.

The Precinct of Mut was dedicated to the mother goddess Mut, who was later identified as the wife of Amun-Re.

The Precinct of Mut has been used since the XVIII dynasty to the Roman Period of Egypt. Amenhotep III built the temple of Mut, and the wall was erected by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Evgegetes I.

The Precinct of Montu was dedicated to the Solar God and war deity in Egyptian mythology. The Precinct of Montu is located to the north of the Amun-Re complex and is much smaller in size. Currently, it is not open to the public.

Columns of the hypostyle hall of Karnak’s temple in Luxor, Egypt. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The Temple of Amenhotep was built by one of the greatest heretics in history, Akhenaten, the Pharaoh that literally challenged the gods.

This temple was located east of the main complex, just outside the walls of the Amun-Re precinct.

The temple was dismantled immediately after the death of Akhenaten.


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