ANCIENT EGYPT | The divine Karnak

A few kilometers from Luxor, walking through the dusty streets of sand along the river Nile, here stands before our eyes the majestic Karnak temple complex, dating from the New Kingdom, the center of the spread of the cult of Upper Egypt. The “Temple of Temples” was not built on a human scale but for the gods. It is the sacred eye of the lord of the universe, Amon the Unknowable, who guides humanity, the One who remains the One, Amon the Infinite power, with mysterious origins in its splendor.  

Meditative architecture

The complex is dedicated to the worship of the god Amon-Ra, supreme god of heaven and fertility, and it is a part of the impressive temple complex of Karnak, which occupies an area of about 48 hectares. Its construction developed over more than half a millennium, from the sixteenth to the eleventh century BC, but in fact it has never been completed. Various pharaohs were involved in the great enterprise, eager to enlarge it, enrich it and make it more and more majestic.

The complex of Karnak takes its name from an Arabic term meaning “fortified village”, replacing the old Egyptian name of Ipet-sut, “The one that counts the seats”, first reserved to the central part and then extended to its totality. This huge temple complex was the center of the ancient religious cult, while the administrative power was concentrated in Thebes (today’s Luxor).

Beyond the religious function, the site was also the administrative center and seat for the pharaohs during the New Kingdom. Karnak is probably the largest monumental complex ever built in the world, developed from generation to generation and resulting from a composition of temples, shrines and architectural elements unique in Egypt.

Karnak is divided into three sections: the precinct of Amon, Mut and Montu. Its complex layout throws a shade, in terms of size, on any other monumental site in Egypt. The precinct of Amon contains all the most famous sections of the Karnak complex, including the dizzying Great Hypostyle Hall.

Karnak 1789
The temple of Amon-Ra in the complex of Karnak, as it appeared to the Napoleonic expedition in 1789

The first nucleus of the temple dates back to the Middle Kingdom, with the construction of the “White Chapel” by Sesostris I, a small cultic chamber designed to contain the sacred boat. The building of Amon-Ra required many complex construction phases, starting with Tuthmosis I, who enclosed the sanctuary with a wall. Hatshepsut erected obelisks near the eastern wall, while with Tuthmosis III other pillars were added.

With this last sovereign the “Hall of the Feasts” was built, destined to the celebration of the sed feast; another important realization was the construction of a room in the complex called “Hall of the Annals“, where the account of the victorious battles in Syria and Canaan was engraved.

Alone in front of God

In the “Great Hypostyle Hall“, commissioned by Sethi I and Ramses II, we find the place where the spirit circulates in the forest of the unconscious, the true labyrinth, the place where the adept awaits the inspiration that will come down from the capitals of the countless columns.

colonne sala ipostila
Columns of the great hypostyle hall

The columns are the very image of the beginning of the world. They defend and conceal the entrance to the sanctuary and contribute, thanks to the magnetism they radiate, to attract the divinity, sensitive to the beauty of the origins. The dimensions of the hypostyle hall are colossal: 134 gigantic columns, which open their capitals towards the sky, support 70-ton lintels on which the heavy stone slabs of the roof are placed, with a capacity of up to seven meters.

In the Hypostyle Hall one waits and meditates: a tension, an elusive presence fills the space, the light changes and leads in front of the doors of the mysterious dwelling, after which one will find oneself alone with the god and can pray for his purity, his legitimacy. Today’s man becomes a cosmic man, goes through the various stages and reaches perfection.

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