It is really hard to believe that there isn’t a temple complex that has both a scenic appearance and spirituality. One of Egypt’s best-preserved complexes is the temple complex at Dendera (also known as Denderah or Tentyra). Perhaps one of the best representations of the authentic magnificence of ancient Egyptian architecture may be found at this complex.
Dendera, also known as the real gem of the Egyptian ruins, was able to withstand the sands of time and maintain the vivid colors of its magnificent structure. You can truly experience the majesty and fascination of ancient Egyptian civilization by visiting this wonderful place
Where is the Dendera temple complex situated?
Dendera, one of the best sights in Luxor, On the west bank of the Nile opposite the city of Qena, 2.5 km (1.6 miles) south-east of the city of Dendera (known to the ancient Egyptians as Iunet or Tantere) lies this majestic temple. It is most famous for the striking temple of Hathor. It is located about 60 kms from Luxor and covers more than 40.000 square meters
The History of the Dendera Temple Complex:
Originally called Tentyris, Dendera was one of the most important religious centers in ancient Egypt. Three sanctuaries made the city sacred: the Sanctuary of Horus, the deity of the sky and pharaoh’s protector; the Sanctuary of Ihy, Horus’s youthful sistrum-playing son; and the Sanctuary of Hathor, the Goddess of Love, Joy, and Fertility. Just a few remnants of the other two can be found, while only the latter has practically survived intact.
The complex is surrounded by a mud-brick wall that contains the remains of many shrines and temples dating all the way back to the old kingdom (2575-2150 BC).
Although built by a dynasty of rulers who were not native Egyptians themselves, the design of this temple has been found to be in accordance with that of other classical Egyptian temples, except for the front of the hypostyle hall, which the Emperor Tiberius is credited with building (according to an inscription above the door).
In the most ancient times, Dendera must have had a sanctuary, which was destroyed and rebuilt several times. There is evidence that the Old Kingdom pharaoh Pepi I built religious structures and a fountain at the site, and there are still remnants of a temple constructed during the eighteenth dynasty (during the New Kingdom).
There is evidence that the first building on the site went up around 2250 BCE, but the standing structures mostly date from the Ptolemaic era forward. The Mentuhotep II monument was the oldest standing building when the site was rediscovered, and it is believed that construction on it started in 1995 BCE. The Mentuhotep monument has since been moved to Cairo. The oldest structure currently there is from Nectanebo II, built around 345 BCE. All that said, it may be more accurate to say the structure as we know it began in 54 BCE, when construction began on the Temple of Hathor, the most prominent structure at the Dendera complex.
What You Can See Inside the Dendera Temple Complex:
The present complex dates from the late Ptolemaic and Roman periods, specifically during the reigns of Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII. This explains the predominance of a wonderfully scenic style, less severe than that of the oldest Egyptian temples, as shown in the lithograph of the interior of the first hypostyle room, a stunning chamber over 80 feet deep with 18 massive columns covered in bas-reliefs.
The temple of Dendera does not feature the pylon usually present in sacred Egyptian architecture ; The building’s front is formed by a large structure spanning 139 feet wide by 60 feet high, with 6 columns on the façade supporting an outstanding cornice. The intercolumniations are occupied as far as halfway up by panels covered with hieroglyphic texts and bas-reliefs, while the entrance opens in the center, forming a high, empty space wider than the adjacent ones.
Inside, 18 more columns stand in three rows; all the capitals reproduce the features of the patron goddess of the place. To some extent, as it is higher than the rest of the temple, this hypostyle room, added under Tiberius, acts as the missing Pylon.
The layout of the Dendera temple complex
The temple complex at Dendera is quite large, boasting a basilica, two birthhouses, a sacred lake, and numerous other temples and shrines within its walls. The site includes monuments from the Middle Kingdom, the Ptolemaic Era, and the time of Roman provincial rule, as well as buildings from other periods of ancient Egypt.
The temple of Hathor
The main highlight of the Dendera temple is the hypnotic temple of Hathor, which was built in the 1st century BC by Pharaoh Ptolemy VIII and Queen Cleopatra II. The temple has a large hall with 18 huge decorated Hathoric columns. The great hall’s entire interior walls are covered with mesmerizing scenes depicting the Roman emperors’ offerings, as well as a mystical ceiling filled with captivating astronomical decorations, such as the sky Goddess Nut bowing herself towards the earth with the sun disc. Ptolemy VIII is depicted giving offerings to the legendary sun boat of Hathor and her husband Horus.
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Gateway of Domitian and Trajan
The gateways of Domitian and Trajan are built into this mudbrick wall and lead to a large open courtyard. Exceptionally, the entrance to the temple of Hathor has neither a colonnade nor a pylon.
To the right of the gateway there is a Mammisi ( a Roman birth house), which is often ascribed to Trajan but may also have been constructed by Nero. The birth house’s dedication inscriptions and decorations refer to Trajan, but Nero is shown inside the hypostyle hall of the temple of Hathor presenting a model of the birth house as an offering, suggesting that he was involved in its construction. Although it was built during the Roman era, this birth house is the latest one still standing and largely adheres to the traditional Ptolemaic model in many ways.
The birth house of Ihy
This birth house was the place where Ihy (Ahy) or Harsomptus (Horus the uniter of the two lands), two young deities who were said to be the sons of Hathor and Horus, were born ritualistically. The divine birth and childhood of these two deities are depicted in stunning detail on the exterior walls. On the capitals of the columns surrounding the birth house, Bes—a patron of childbirth—is also depicted in numerous ways.
The Coptic Christian basilica and Mammisi of Nectanebo II
The ruins of a Coptic Christian basilica dating to the 5th century AD can be found next to this birth house. There is a smaller birth house that was built by Nectanebo I and then further decorated in the Ptolemaic era between the Coptic church and the temple of Hathor. Only the false door and a few of the decorations still remain in this building, which was partially demolished to make room for an expansion of the courtyard in front of the temple to Hathor. The Ptolemaic pharaohs making offerings to Hathor and Khnum creating Ihy on his potter’s wheel while being observed by Heqet in the form of a frog were depicted on the walls of the birth house.
A building known as the “sanatorium” can be found further south, next to the temple of Hathor. This structure appears to be one-of-a-kind in Egyptian religion and architecture. In essence, the sanatorium served as a spa where sick people could go to be healed by Hathor, who was revered as a goddess of healing. There were sacred bathing waters, sleeping quarters (where the sick hoped to receive the goddess’s help in their dreams), and the priests of Hathor ran an early pharmacy, dispensing unguents and providing guidance on effective treatments. An inscription on the base of a statue indicates that sacred texts were wetted with water, which then had the power to heal a wide range of illnesses, before being poured over the statues.
The Chapel of Montuhotep
A small chapel with inscriptions honoring Merenptah stood to the west of the sanatorium and was constructed by Montuhotep Nebhepetre in the eleventh dynasty (of the nineteenth dynasty). This chapel is believed to have been devoted to the religion of the pharaoh rather than the goddess Hathor. The chapel was taken apart and rebuilt within the Cairo Museum.
The zodiac signs of the dendera temple
The enigmatic Dendera Zodiac Signs are one of the primary and most significant draws of Dendera Temple. The ceiling of a chapel in the Temple of Hathor, where the mysteries surrounding the resurrected deity Osiris were celebrated, included a bas-relief depicting a night skyscape with human and animal figures. Egyptologists determined it should be interpreted as a map of the sky rather than a giant horoscope or a perpetual astrological tool.
The zodiac signs act as a map to the stars on a plane projection showing 12 constellations found at the Osiris chapel containing images of the ram, the bull, the crab, the heavenly twins, the scales, the scorpion, the lion, the watering pots, the virgin, the goat, , the archer, and fishes with glittering tails. These constellations were used to set up the ancient Egyptian calendar and were formed in accordance with the universe’s creation myth.
The Zodiac of Dendera was transported to France in 1821 with the permission of the Turkish viceroy of Egypt, Mohamed Ali Pasha. It was replaced by a fake one, and the Egyptian government has asked for its return. It is presently on exhibit at the Louvre in Paris.
The light bulb of the dendera temple
Dendera Temple rose to prominence as the source of one of Egyptology’s most controversial fringe theories. According to this theory, the carvings of a Djed pillar and a lotus flower spawning a snake within them are evidence of the Egyptians obtaining electric lighting tools resembling a lightbulb connected to a developed electric system, but many archeologists dismiss this theory because it is so far from reality.
The bottom line
The Dendera temple complex is one of the best preserved in Egypt. It is a very popular tourist attraction that is featured in several Nile River cruises from Luxor to Aswan or Luxor tours. The grounds around the complex have been extensively landscaped, which makes the temple truly unmissable.
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