Temples

feet columns egyptian temple front doorway pronaos effect outline time

TEMPLES. - The Egyptian temples range from the time that Thebes became the capital (about 2000 B.c.) down to the time of the Cmsars.

Of all the temples, the most remarkable is perhaps the rock-cut one of Aboosimbel, in Nubia, supposed to have been excavated in the 14th century B. C. The facade was cut in the steep face of a rock, the entrance doorway being flanked by two gigantic statues (66 feet high) on each side. The main feature internally was a grand hall supported by two rows of detached piers, in front of each of which is a statue 17 ft. 8 in. high. Another remarkable temple exists at Ghizeh, built up within a great excavation in the rock ; here was found the statue of Chephren before mentioned. The temple is lined with immense blocks of polished granite, as are also the piers, each of these being of one stone about 15 feet high, 5 feet wide, and 3.2 thick. Over this structure there was clearly another, above ground, as extensive remains of fine stonewalling still exist. This singular edifice is without inscription of any kind, and evidently was connected in some way with sepulture, as tomb-chambers lead out of it. The apparently great antiquity of these and other excavations lent countenance to the theory to which we have before alluded, viz., that the origin of Egyptian art is to be found in them. But the evidence before us distinctly shows that all the forms used in the great excavations at Aboosimbel, Thebes, Beni Hassan, and other places, are clearly copied from built buildings. Thus, we have the ceilings arched out of the solid rock, or formed with clear imitations of beams, squared or round, also cut out of the rock, just as square beams or round logs were used in ordinary buildings ; and so with the other parts of the excavations.

The grandest architectural efforts of the Egyptians are shown in their built temples, whose construction ranges from the time at which Thebes became the chief capital (about 2000 n.c.) down to so late even as the time of the Cmsars. Sir Gardner Wilkinson, in his Architecture of Ancient Egypt, gives a very full account of these edifices, and classifies them thus :-1. Sanctuary Temples, or those with only one single chamber. 2. Peripteral Temples, or the like, but surrounded with columns. 3. Temples in Antis, with a portico of two or four columns in front. 4. Those with porticos of many columns, as Esne, Dendera, and many inner chambers. 5. Those with large courts, and with pyramidal towers or propylons in front. The earliest temples were small, consisting of a simple chamber to hold the statue of the deity, with one opening or doorway in front, through which the votary might look, and with an altar for sacrifice. They were sanctuaries into which only priests might enter. The building was surrounded with a wall of brick forming a court or temenos, which was entered by a tall stone gateway or propylon, and was often planted with trees. In process of time these temples were enlarged, and there were added chambers for the priests, and large doorways flanked by towers with sloping sides (Plate VII. fig. 5), and sometimes by a portico or pronaos (fig. 2) supported by columns. The vestibule, or court-yard, was surrounded by a colonnade (fig. 4) ; the propylon was of gigantic proportions, and full of chambers (figs. 1, 4). The sanctuary, adytunz, or crzjicos (fig. 4), still contained the idol and its altar. Across the court, and, in fact, sometimes for an immense distance outside, there was a 8,0/;,uos, or avenue of sphinxes, through which processions defiled. At the commencement of this avenue there was frequently an open or hypmthral building, or peristyle of columns, where it is supposed the processions assembled and were marshalled. This building is called a canopy by Sir Gardner Wilkinson.

The pyramidal form of the propylma, peculiar to Egyptian temples, may have been suggested by the pyramids, as neither that form nor those adjuncts to a temple appear to have been used before the period at which it is supposed the former were constructed. The grandeur and dignity inherent in that form would indeed hardly be suspected till-its appearance in the pyramids themselves ; and certainly the impression of its effect must have been strong, to induce men to seek it in a truncated pyramid under a very acute angle, as in the propylcea, relying on the effect of its outline alone. It was gradually, too, that this tendency was generally applied, for in the earliest Pharaonic structures the vertical outline is most common, except in the propylma, where they exist ; and in the structures of the Ptolemies the inclined outline pervades everything. The larger and more perfect structures do not externally present the appearance of being columned, a boundary wall or peribolus girding the whole, and preventing the view of any part of the interior, - except perhaps the towering magnificence of some inner pylones ; of the lofty tops of an extraordinary avenue of columns, with their superimposed terrace ; of the tapering obelisks which occupy, at times, some of the courts ; or of a dense mass of structure, which is the body of the temple itself, enclosing the thickly columned halls. The immense magnitude of these edifices may perhaps have made them, in their perfect state, independent of considerations which have weight in architectural composition at the present time, and on which indeed its harmony depends. The various portions of the same temple differ in size and proportion ; whence it happens that the cornices of the lower parts abut indefinitely against the walls of the higher, while the latter are not at all in accordance among themselves.

The structure selected here to exemplify Egyptian architecture, and figured in elevation, plan, and details in Plate VII., though not ranked among the Pharaonic monuments, is perfectly characteristic of the style and arrangement of Egyptian temples, and is a more regular specimen than any other possessing the national peculiarities. It is known as the temple of Apollinopolis Magna, or of Edfoo, in Upper Egypt, on the banks of the Nile, between Thebes and the first cataract. It has recently been cleared out, and its magnificent ruins now stand forth grandly and clearly.

The plan of the enclosure behind the propyltea is a long parallelogram, the moles or propyla themselves forming another across one of its ends. The grand entrance to the great court of the temple is by a doorway between the moles, to which there may have been folding gates, for the notches, as for their hinges, are still to be seen. Small chambers, right and left of the entrance, and in the core of the propylma, were probably for the porters or guards of the temple : a staircase remains on each side, which leads to other chambers at different heights. To furnish these with light and air, loop-holes have been cut through the external walls, disfiguring the front of the structure. The grand doorway (fig. 4) is about 50 feet high, and is flanked by two massive towers 110 feet high. The whole facade measures about 250 feet, or about 70 feet longer than that of St Paul's. The propylon is covered with numerous figures, all of colossal proportions, and some as high as 40 feet. The court is 160 feet by 140, and is surrounded on three sides by columns 32 feet high, forming a covered gallery. The pronaos, or covered portico, measures 110 feet by 44, and consists of three rows of six columns, each 34 feet high, parallel and equidistant, except in the middle, where the intercolumniation is greater, because of the passage through. The front row of columns is closed by a sort of breastwork or dado, extending to nearly half their height, in which moreover they are half-imbedded ; and in the central opening a peculiar doorway is formed, consisting of piers, with the lintel and cornice over them cut through, as exhibited in the elevation of the portico. From the pronaos another doorway leads to an atrium or inner vestibule, consisting of three rows of smaller columns, with four in each, distributed as those of the pronaos are. Beyond this vestibule there are sundry close rooms and cells, with passages and staircases which were probably used for storing the sacred utensils. The insulated chamber within the sixth door was most probably the adytum, or shrine of the deity or deities to whom the temple was dedicated. It measures only about 33 feet by 17 feet, while the whole edifice within the walls covers about as much ground as St Paul's, London.

The longitudinal section of the edifice (fig. 3) shows the relative heights of the various parts, and the mode of constructing the soffits or ceilings, which are of the same. material as the walls and columnar ordinances ; that is, in some cases granite, and in others freestone. The elevation of the pronaos (fig. 2) shows also a transverse section of the colonnades and peribolus. It displays most of tho general features of Egyptian columnar architecture ; the unbroken continuity of outline, the pyramidal tendency of the composition, and the boldness and breadth of every part. The good taste with which the interspaces of the columns are covered may be remarked. Panels standing between the columns would have had a very ill effect, both internally and externally ; and if a continued screen had been made, the effect would be still worse, as the columns must then have appeared from the outside absurdly short ; but as it is, their height is perfectly obvious, and their form is rendered clear by the contrast of light and shade occasioned by the projection of the panels, which would not exist if they had been detailed between the columns. The lotus ornament at the foot of the panels is particularly simple and elegant ; and nothing can be more graceful and effective than the cyma above their cornice, which is singularly enriched with ibis mummy-cases (figs. 6 and 7). The jambs forming a false doorway in the central inter-space are a blemish in the composition; they injure it very much by the abruptness of their form, and their want of harmony with anything else in it. The front elevation of the moles or propyla (fig. 1) with the grand entrance between them, is peculiarly Egyptian ; and very little variety is discoverable between the earliest and latest specimens of this species of structure. It is an object that must be seen to be appreciated ; simplicity and an inherent impressiveness in the pyramidal tendency are all on which it has to depend for effect, with the exception of its magnitude. The projecting fillet and roving which form a cornice to the structures, though large and bold, appear small and inefficient when compared with the bulk they crown ; and there is nothing particularly striking in the torus which marks the lateral outline and separates the straight line of the front from the circular of the cornice. Neither are they dependent for their effect on the sculpture, for their appearance is as impressive at a distance, which makes the latter indistinct, as when they are seen near at hand.

A portion of the portico is given on a larger scale (fig. 5), to show more clearly the forms and arrangement of Egyptian columnar composition. The shaft of the column in this example is perfectly cylindrical. It rests on a square step, or continued stylobate, without the intervention of a plinth or base of any kind ; and it has no regular vertical channelling or enrichment, such as fluting, but is marked horizontally with series of grooves, and inscribed with hieroglyphics. The capitals are of different sizes and forms in the same ordinance. In this example the capital, exclusive of its receding abacus, is about one diameter of the column in height. Its outline is that of the cyma, with a reversed ovolo fillet above, and its enrichment consists principally of lotus flowers. The capital of the column next to this (fig. 2), in the front line, is much taller, differently formed, and ornamented with palm leaves ; the third is of the same size and outline as the first, but differently ornamented ; and the corresponding columns on the other side of the centre have capitals corresponding with these, each to its fellow, in the arrangement. Above the capital there is a square block or receding abacus, which has the effect of a deepening of the entablature, instead of a covering of the columns, when the capitals spread, as in this case. In the earlier Egyptian examples, however, in which the columns are swollen, and diminished in two unequal lengths, the result is different, and the form and size of the abacus appear perfectly consistent. The height of this column and its capital, without the abacus, is six diameters. The entablature consists of an architrave and cornice, there being no equivalent for the frieze of a Greek entablature, unless the coving be so considered, in which case the cornice becomes a mere shelf. The architrave, including the torus, is about three-quarters of a diameter in height, which is half that of the whole entablature. The architrave itself is in this example sculptured in low relief, but otherwise plain. The torus, which returns and runs down the angles of the building, is gracefully banded, something like the manner in which the fasces are represented in Roman works. The coving is divided into compartments by vertical flutes, which have been thought to be the origin of triglyphs in a Doric frieze ; but these are arranged without reference to the columns, and are in other respects so totally different from them as to give but little probability to the suggestion. The compartments are beautifully enriched with hieroglyphics, except in the centre, where a winged globe is sculptured, surmounting another on the architrave, as shown in the elevation of the pronaos. The crowning tablet or fillet is quite plain and unornamented. Angular roofs are unknown in ancient Egyptian buildings, and consequently pediments are unknown in its architecture.

The temple at Edfoo, though its dimensions are considerable, is small when compared with that at Karnak. This covers about 420,000 feet, or five times as much as St Paul's, London, and more than twice as much as St Peter's at Rome. The propylon is 370 feet long, or twice as much as that of St Paul's. The hypostyle hall,' a parallelogram of about 342 feet long, and 170 feet wide, is the most wonderful apartment in the world. It has fourteen rows of columns, nine in each row, and 43 feet high ; and two rows, six in each, of the enormous height of 62 ft., 11 ft. 6 in. in diameter, and carrying capitals which measure 22 feet across. This hall (with the two gigantic pylones) is said to cover 4000 superficial feet more than St Paul's. Beyond it is the adytum or shrine, a small apartment, measuring only 26 feet by 16 feet.

In many cases the temples want the peribolus and propylma, the edifice consisting of no more than the pronaos and the parts beyond it. In others, particularly in those of Thebes, this arrangement is doubled, and there are two pairs of the colossal moles, and another open court or second vestibule intervening between them and the portico. The central line across the courts is formed by a covered avenue of columns, of much larger size than ordinary ; and the galleries around are of double rows of columns instead of one row with the walls. The obelisks indicated in the plan and section of Edfoo (Plate VU.), before the propyhea, occupy the situation in which they are generally found, though in this case there are none. Colossal seated figures are sometimes found before the piers of the gateway ; and from them, as a base, a long avenue of sphinxes is frequently found ranged like an alley or avenue of trees from a mansion to the park gate, straight or winding, as the case may require.

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