July 28, 2012

Temple of Khonsu

Temple of Khonsu: Plan 9
The Temple of Khonsu, dedicated to the Moon-god Khonsu, son of Amon and Mut, is a classical example of a New Kingdom temple. Ramses III was responsible for building the original sanctuary and erecting the walls but it was only completed under his successors Ramses IV, who continued the near chambers and added a small hypostyle hall, Ramses XII, and Hrihor, the high priest who seized the throne at the close of the 20th Dynasty. Hrihor added a colonnaded court and the entrance pylon. In the 21st Dynasty the temple was continued under Pinedjem I.

Temple of Khonsu
The large pylon at the entrance (Plan 9 P.i) has representations of the high priest and his wife making sacrifices to various Theban deities. The high priest, Hrihor, stands in the position traditionally occupied by the Pharaohs of Egypt. The four vertical grooves with corresponding apertures in the masonry at the front of the pylon were used to fasten the flagstaffs.

Passing through the central portal of the pylon, decorated with reliefs of Alexander II, we enter the Court (A). This has four side- exits and is surrounded on three sides by colonnades of papyrus columns with bud capitals formed in double rows. Those at the rear of the court are on a raised terrace.

There is a representation on the right-hand wall (a) showing the main pylon of the temple with eight, not four, flag staff's. On the walls of the terrace Hrihor makes offerings to Amon, Mut and Khonsu (b). At (c) he receives gifts from Khonsu and there are also representations of the sacred barge. At (d) Hrihor offers flowers to an image of Min, the god of human fertility.

Through the doorway at the back of the court is the hypostyle hall (B) which spans the full breadth of the temple. The four papyrus columns in the central aisle have calyx capitals whilst the smaller side ones have bud capitals. The wall reliefs were added by Ramses XII and depict him sacrificing to the gods in the presence of Hrihor, who later dethroned him.

The central doorway in the rear wall leads to the boat-shrine (Q which occupies the centre of a larger room. The reliefs represent the Pharaohs Ramses IV, Ramses XII and various deities.

Behind the boat shrine there is a small door of the Ptolemaic period which leads to the sanctuary of Khonsu (D) which has four twenty-sided pillars. The reliefs mostly depict Ramses IV but there are also some representations of the Emperor Augustus which can be found on each side of the entrance. In total there are seven small chambers, decorated by Ramses III and his successors, surrounding this hall.

The temple of Khonsu is of special historical significance since it bears witness to the transmission of Pharaonic power, between the reigns of Ramses III and Ramses XII, from the royal line of Pharaohs to the priests of Amon. As already mentioned the high priests gradually acquired more political power after the close of the 18th Dynasty. With an ever-weakening line of Pharaohs after Ramses II they were at last able to usurp the throne. In this temple the name of the high priest appears in a royal cartouche for the first time.

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