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Ramesseum

Theban Mortuary Temples - T vs MT - Thebes - The Places

Pharaoh Ramses II’s Mansion of Millions of Years

New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty was a prolific and exquisite builder, and his Mortuary Temple on the Theban Necropolis was no exception. For more details about Pharaoh Ramses II, his life, his family, his reign and his buildings, click here

Pharaoh Ramses II’s Throne name was “usermaatra-setepenra” which is reflected in the Mortuary Temple’s name of the

 

House of millions of years of Usermaatra-setepenra that unites with Thebes-the-city in the Domain of Amun”.

Location

The Ramesseum is found on the Theban Necropolis between the Mortuary Temples of Pharaoh Merneptah and Pharaoh Tuthmose IV. From historical records, we know that Pharaoh commenced the construction of this Temple shortly after his reign commenced, maybe after he had completed work on his father’s barely erected Mortuary Temple. To find out about the Mortuary Temple of Ramses father, Pharaoh Seti I, click here. He completed work on his Mortuary Temple after 20 years.

After the Second Courtyard, the path leads behind into the originally 48 columned, and now 39 columned, and covered Hypostyle Hall. The colours that remain here are superb.

All columns are covered with reliefs of Pharaoh and the Deities, whilst the ceiling is decorated with golden Stars on a background of the inky blue night’s sky. On the surrounding Walls are reliefs of Pharaoh’s children who walk as though in a procession.

Layout

The Temple is oriented North-west to South-east and would have originally been surrounded by a mudbrick Enclosure Wall.

All the Walls are covered in hieroglyphs and reliefs, some of which have still retained their original colours.

The First Pylon is the official entrance to the Temple. This decorated with scenes from Pharaoh’s famous Battle of Kadesh Victory and Reliefs showing Pharaoh’s dedication to the Deities.

The Pylon leads into its own Courtyard which is followed by the Second Pylon leading into its own Osiride Pillared and Columned Courtyard.

Also inside the Second Courtyard is the fallen Statue of Pharaoh; originally it was one of a pair and would have depicted Pharaoh on his Throne and is estimated to have been approx. 19 meters high and would have weighed more than 1,000 Tons.

At the rear of the Temple is the Inner Sanctum.  This is where Pharaoh’s Ka Statue would have been located. To understand more about how the Ancient Egyptians continued to venerate their deceased Pharaoh as a Deity, click here.

This Sanctuary had 3 consecutive rooms which each had 8 columns of their own and of course the rooms reserved for the Theban Triad to have one each of their own Ka Statues. To learn more about the Theban Triad, click here.

Subsidiary Buildings

Locations given are as if the viewer was looking from above

  • Palace; to the left of the First Pylon and Courtyard
  • Temple of Queen Tuya and Queen Nefertari, Pharaoh’s Mother and Pharaoh’s Great Royal Wife respectively; to the right of the Hypostyle Hall – close to . . .
  • Temple of Pharaoh Seti I, Pharaoh’s Father; to the right of the Hypostyle Hall, it originally had 2 Chapel Shrines and a Peristyle Court
  • Kitchens and Bakeries, known as the “Feeding of Gods and Priests”; to the left of the Hypostyle Hall
  • The Temple’s Library is thought to have been near the Hypostyle Hall but its exact location is not known
  • House of Life which included an Artisans and Scribal School which became famous in its day; to the left of the Hypostyle Hall
  • Storage Rooms for food and the wealth of the Temple to be stored – this may have also included the Temple’s Treasury; behind and to the right of the Inner Sanctum Inside these storage rooms have been found Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Limestone blocks which Pharaoh reused. Pharaohs are well known to have “robbed” much of the stonework for their own Mortuary Temples from that of their forebears. We cannot view this as a form of theft by the monarch but rather that the offending Pharaoh viewed the co-opting of other Pharaoh’s building stones into their own monuments as a way to make them sacred and bring a gravitas of importance to their own projects. If the stone was marked with another Pharaoh’s cartouche this almost made it like a modern time reliquary’s – even more sacred and bound with even more meaning.To learn how the builders used Stone and other material to build the Monuments of Ancient Egypt, click here.

Other Local Structures

  • Pharaoh Amenhotep II’s Mortuary Temples lays directly to the right of the Ramesseum
  • White Queen Chapel lays North-West of the Temple. The Temple is named after a Limestone Bust which was very “white” in colour in the form of Pharaoh Ramses II and Queen Nefertari’s eldest daughter, Princess Meritamen. For more details about Princess Meritamen click here
  • Prince Wadjnes Chapel lays South of the Ramesseum. The Chapel is named after Prince Wadjnes a son of Pharaoh Ramses II who is thought to have died before Pharaoh ascended to the Throne.

The Strike

About 140 years later the Ramesseum was the site of striking Artisans and Workers who Pharaoh Ramses III had failed to pay. They marched from their Village at Deir el Medina and staged their strike. To find out more details, click here.

Loss of the Mortuary Temple and its Complex

Compared to some other local Mortuary Temples the Ramesseum looks amazingly intact. However, using a little imagination can show you that there is much missing, broken and damaged in its remains.

As with many other ancient Temples, within and outside of Egypt, time and the weather has not been kind to the home of Pharaoh’s Cult. The yearly Nile Flood would have had an affect over time on the Temple and whilst this is perfect for the agriculture of Egypt it is not so convenient for a Temple. To learn more about the Nile’s annual Flood, click here. 

Furthermore, later Pharaohs, especially Pharaoh Ramses III while constructing his Mortuary Temple, known as Medinet Habu, robbed stone and the statues, sphinx and stelae away from the Temple for their own reuse.

We cannot view this as a form of theft by the monarch but rather that the offending Pharaoh viewed the co-opting of other Pharaoh’s building stones into their own monuments as a way to make them sacred and bring a gravitas of importance to their own projects. If the stone was marked with another Pharaoh’s cartouche this almost made it like a modern time reliquary’s – even more sacred and bound with even more meaning. To learn how the builders used Stone and other material to build the Monuments of Ancient Egypt, click here. 

Later religions were also known to have reused the Ramesseum as their own places of worship and often desecrated the images that they believed to be heretical.

To compound these destabilising measures, the area has been subject to at least one earthquake in 27 BC.