The cultus temple, which was built of stone, was the place where the god’s statue could be housed and protected. It was a place where the king or priest could approach the god and present gifts for the god’s benefit. In return, the god gave to the king, the people, and the country bounty.
The mortuary temple, which was also built of stone, was attached to the pyramid as part of the king’s burial complex. This was where funerary rites were performed and offerings were placed for the spirit of the deceased ruler. When pyramids were no longer built, being replaced by rock-cut tombs, the mortuary temples were built separately, usually on the west bacnk of the Nile River at Thebes.
At the front of the temple was a huge pylon gateway. In the front of the pylons there were often obelisks or large statues of the king who built the temple. Staircases inside the pylons led to window embrasures, from which flags could be attached to poles which stood in narrow, elongated niches on the outside of the pylons.
Just inside the temple was the front courtyard which was open to the sky. Its columns stood along the side walls. At the top of each were carved closed lotus or papyrus buds. From the courtyard, a corridor extended around the inner rooms. The outside wall was rectangular, but the rooms narrowed as one moved deeper into the temple.
Deep in the centre of the temple was the sanctuary, being located in the highest and darkest part. In it was the shrine, within which the statue of the god stood. On either side of the ramp leading to the sanctuary was a doorway to the roofed, columned hypostyle hall. On the outside wall of this room were clerestory bars, through which light came.
Abydos: Temple of Seti I
This is the finest and best preserved of mortuary temples, being located about 145 km (90 mi) north of Luxor (Thebes). This had long been the most venerated site in Egypt. One of the tombs at this site was later declared to be the burial place of the god Osiris. Annually a festival of revival and resurrection was held here and was attended by people from all over Egypt. In many of the Middle and New Kingdom tombs are models and paintings of boats carrying a sarcophagus to Abdyos.
Seti I decided to build his temple here, over the foundations of earlier temples. Besides honouring Osiris, Seti had six other deities venerated here. He died before the temple had been completed. He had fine reliefs carved by his craftsmen. However, his son Ramesses II added cruder, hastily cut reliefs which detract from the original ones.
The temple was built of good limestone in an L-shape. The storerooms were built to the side and south rather than behind the sanctuary. The open court leads to a pillared façade where Ramesses II is shown with the gods. The first hypostyle leads to a second hall, at the west end of which are the entrances to the seven sanctuaries. These were dedicated to the gods and Seti.
There are corridors with scenes on the walls. At the top of the outside staircase, the Osireion can be seen. The massive granite blocks and columns are similar to those of an earlier period.
Karnak: Sanctuary of Amun
This was the richest and most powerful temple in ancient Egypt. For 2,000 years, it was continually extended and renovated. Its final area of more than 100 hectares (247 acres), including twenty or more temples.
The precinct of Amun contains the main temple and most of the small ones. The inside of the temple is laid out on two axes which intersect next to the sacred lake, a feature of all temples. Ten huge gates, or pylons, mark the major extensions. Between the pylons are large courtyards filled with statues, shrines, altars, obelisks, and the minor temples. Various other structures appeared during the reigns of various kings. Between the tenth pylon and the Precinct of Mut lies the Avenue of the Sphinxes, which is lined with sphinxes.