To see plans of temples, please visit the Temple Plans pages.

For a good source of information, see The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt.

In the most simplistic of distinctions, there are basically two types of temple in ancient Egyptian religion: the cult temple and the mortuary temple. The cult temple was a temple to a god and a mortuary temple served the spirit of a deceased pharaoh.

However, within most temples could be found sanctuaries, offices, palaces, schools, slaughterhouses and treasuries. Temples were generally the main economic powerhouse of the area in which they were situated and some temples, such as the one at Karnak, were national powers which could rival the authority of pharaoh.

The origins of the Egyptian temples lie in simple buildings constructed of reeds and wooden poles.


The state shrine of Lower Egypt, as shown by the hieroglyph:


The state shrine of Upper Egypt, as shown by the hieroglyph:



Temples then developed right through to the New Kingdom design, which then became more or less the fixed style for temple construction. This style is tripartite in design - open court (preceded by a pylon, and perhaps several pylons), hypostyle hall and sanctuary. The floor level of the temple would rise from the open court to the sanctuary. This reflected the symbolic nature of the temple, representing the rise from the waters of Nun (oblivion and pre-time) through the marsh (the hypostyle hall, represented by the papyrus columns, the papyrus being a marshland plant) up to the mound of the first creation of land (the sanctuary):