The Second Pylon & Hypostyle HallPrecinct of Amun Ra - Karnak Temple - Theban Temples
Ipet Sut, “Most Select of Places”
The Precinct of Amun Ra
2nd Pylon, “Illuminating Thebes”
At the back of the First Courtyard is the 2nd Pylon. Commissioned by Pharaoh Horemheb, the interior stones used to “fill in” the gaps between the huge exterior Pylon walls were recycled from the destruction Pharaoh caused when tearing down the works inside Karnak Temple by Pharaoh Akhenaten, and a Temple commissioned by his direct predecessors, Pharaoh Ay and Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The 2nd Pylon was decorated fully by his successor, Pharaoh Ramses I who overwrote Pharaoh Horemheb’s cartouches with his own, only to have his own cartouche’s overwritten by his grandson, Pharaoh Ramses II.
Pharaoh Ramses II added two Colossi depicting himself in front of the 2nd Pylon which do not exist today apart from one set feet.
The roof of the Pylon is known to have collapsed before being rebuilt during the Ptolemaic Period.
Built by: Pharaoh Seti I and his son Pharaoh Ramses II and used for over 1,700 years
Located: Between the 2nd and 3rd Pylons
Size: 103 meters wide by 53 meters long, the largest Hypostyle Hall in Egypt
Columns: 134 Papyrus Columns
Dedicated to: God Amun Ra
Use: The Place where the Royal Cult was celebrated especially where the God Amun Ra could meet with the Ennead during the annual Festivals. Click here to learn more about the “Great Nine” or the Ennead. To discover what Festivals were held in Ancient Egypt, click here.
There is nothing depicted inside or outside the Hypostyle Hall, either in its architecture or its decoration that did not serve a specific function and religious dedication. The most striking feature in ancient times would have been the difference between the light which penetrated every area in the First Courtyard before walking into the relative darkness of the Hypostyle Hall. Imagine the adjustment your eyes would have needed you to make from the Egyptian sun into the darkness, closeness and quietness of this holy space.
Each of the foundations for the individual 134 Columns inside the Hypostyle Hall is made from Sandstone Blocks or Talatats. Talatats are small blocks – 27cm by 27cm by 54cm – which Pharaoh Akhenaten used to create his Temples to the God Aten in Karnak Temple and at his Capital City, Akhetaten.
These were specifically used as the “rubbish” to be crushed in the foundations of the Hypostyle Hall to show Pharaoh Seti I’s distaste with the religious and political detour that Pharaoh Akhenaten took the country – click here to learn about this – on before Egypt’s religion and foreign policy was restored by Pharaoh Tutankhamun and Grand Vizier Ay. Click here to learn about the Restoration.
These Columns are then raised Block by block before being topped by 134 “Abacus” Blocks, some of which can still be easily seen. These were the ancient windows which let limited light and heat into the Hall. At the pinnacle was the Roof. Every surface would then have been decorated in intricately carved Reliefs and painted.
The Central Aisle
Through the middle of the Hypostyle Hall has 12 larger Columns which are each 21 meters high and are depicted as open papyrus flowers with a diameter at the top of 5.4 meters wide. The Hypostyle Hall’s Papyrus Flowered Columns represent the Primordial Marsh from the beginning of time in accordance with the Ancient Egyptian creation myth. Click here to learn about their Creation Story.
This was the only portion of the Hall that was substantially lit from the Slit Windows which were cut into the roof and that the very tops of the supporting Columns.
Light would flow at sunrise straight through the Temple’s Central Aisle inside the Hypostyle Hall on the Winter and Summer solstices.
Outside the Central Aisle are the 122 Supporting Columns which are 12 meters high and are depicted as closed bud papyrus flowers
Anyone who has visited or seen sufficient number of pictures from the Hypostyle Hall will be well aware that Pharaoh’s Seti I and Ramses II intended the entirety of the Hall and its External Walls; Columns, Bases of the Walls, Pylons, Walls, Architraves and Roof was intended to be littered with Reliefs, Religious Texts, Devotion Offerings and Royal Titles. Many of these are repeated frequently which I believe was to show the Deities the dedication of Pharaoh to their service, similar to the repetition of standard prayers or texts today.
The external decoration depicts the political situations and foreign policy that the Ancient Egyptians believed important in the 19th Dynasty.
The External North Walls are decorated with Pharaoh Seti I’s Military Campaigns including those against the Hittite Empire and modern-day Lebanon. All these were depicted in raised reliefs. The Reliefs were begun by Pharaoh Seti I but he died before it was completed and so his son and successor completed the works on his behalf.
The External South Walls are decorated with Pharaoh Ramses II’s Military Victories including his Military Campaigns against the Hittite Empire which had continued after the death of his father and on into 2 decades of his own reign, and modern-day Libya. He further added a Wall solely to report the text of the peace Treaty that he signed with the Hittites in Regnal Year 21. To investigate the first known Peace Treaty in history, click here.
Pharaoh Ramses II firstly commenced the decorations in raised relief but changed these very early on to sunk reliefs which he changed all the reliefs on the External South Walls to reflect. To learn about the different forms of Relief Decorations, click here.
Both Pharaoh’s throughout their artwork over emphasised their own “heroic” role in their Military Campaigns in order to prove that they were upholding the Ma’at and played the lead role in order winning out over the chaos of other empires trying to impeach on Egypt. The Pharaohs are always depicted as the largest figure who is seen to be flattening his enemies physically and bending them to his own will and that of the Deities that Pharaoh represents; in this case, in the precinct of Amun Ra, the God Amun Ra. All profits are presented to the God Amun-Ra for his own disposal as thanks for his assistance in the defeat of the enemies against Egypt. Use propaganda tools for Egypt’s Empire status and also for Egypt’s religious beliefs being superior to other communities.
These Depictions of the Military Campaigns continue into the area now known as the Cachette Court. Click here to visit that site.
Inside the Hypostyle Hall, the decoration is devoted to the Ancient Egyptian beliefs, Culture and Religion; highly coloured it reflected the daily and annual ceremonies that Pharaoh Seti I built the Hall to carry out. To discover the daily rituals that would have taken place inside the Hypostyle Hall, click here.
Study and Restoration
Study inside the Hypostyle Hall and on its External Walls is almost continuous during the Season Work Period i.e., during the winter and more habitable weather conditions. This was prompted to commence on 3rd October 1899 when a humungous crash was heard in Luxor Temple, approx. 5 km away from Karnak Temple. The horrified antiquarians found that the source of the noise was the collapsing of 11 of the Columns inside the Hypostyle Hall’s northern wing.
As confirmed in the Section labelled “Columns” above, each of the foundations for the individual 134 Columns inside the Hypostyle Hall is made from Sandstone Blocks or Talatats. Talatats are small blocks – 27cm by 27cm by 54cm – which Pharaoh Akhenaten used to create his Temples to the God Aten in Karnak Temple and at his Capital City, Akhetaten. These were specifically used as the “rubbish” to be crushed in the foundations of the Hypostyle Hall to show Pharaoh Seti I’s distaste with the religious and political detour that Pharaoh Akhenaten took the country – click here to learn about this – on before Egypt’s religion and foreign policy was restored by Pharaoh Tutankhamun and Grand Vizier Ay. Click here to learn about the Restoration.
But the forces of physics and gravity proved too much for the religious devotion that Pharaoh Seti I was looking to show in his foundations and the weight of the columns, and the roof had now become too much for the weather battered foundations.
Salted Groundwater had been invading and eating away at the foundation of the Hypostyle Hall for years and in 1899 made its presence clearly known when the 11 Columns collapsed. Urgent Restoration work needed to be completed in order to preserve the remaining Columns and all the artwork they held.
French Egyptologist, Georges Legrain, took on the project. He took apart the remaining standing portions of the Northern part of the Hypostyle Hall and rebuilt the whole section of the building, including the part that had collapsed, all on new Foundations. The Southern part of the Hypostyle Hall then had its Column Foundations replaced one by one.
Modern Restorations are carried out firstly by the chemical cleaning of any blocks to remove the salts that are the cause of the disintegration. The chemicals are rinsed off meaning that the blocks are protected for years to come.
In situ and loose fragments are treated by being soaked in the treatment chemicals before being covered with paper and clear plastic for 2 to 3 weeks.
Joints are treated by injecting silicate into the gaps before they are also then covered with paper and clear plastic for 2 to 3 weeks.
Any reassembly that is needed is then done by the fragments being correctly placed with a gluing substance placed in between the parts before being strapped together for 24 + hours to ensure adequate drying times.