Great Hall of Pillars at Karnak.details

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Great Hall of Pillars at Karnak.

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This engraving shows the Hypostele Hall at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt.

A hyperstele (pronounced like high-poh-steel) is a fancy name for a big hall with columns, and this one is 5,000 square metres (54,000 square feet or so), and the large columns are some 24 metres (80 feet) high. This is said to be the single largest chamber of any religious structure ever built in the world.

The text in the book dates from 1878, and much more is understood about the temple today.

The princes of the XVIIIth Dynasty had already, indeed, decorated the great national temple with works of great size and extent, but these sink into nothingness when compared to the immense hypostyle (IV.) begun by Rameses I., carried on by Seti, and finished by his son Rameses II.¹[About B.C. 1320] This far exceeds in grandeur any other portion of the temple, either earlier or later, and there is not in the whole world a hall which can be put into the remotest comparison with it. It is a banqueting-hall for gods or giants and not for petty mortals. No less than a hundred and thirty-four columns, of huge height and thickness, supported the architraves and the immense stone slabs with which it was roofed over. Six pairs of columns with fine caliciform capitals, formed the colonnade, by which processions passed from the fore-court, through the old buildings, to the sanctuary; while the other one hundred and twenty two-columns were somewhat lower than these twelve central ones, and were crowned with foliated capitals. The internal rows of columns to the right and left supported windows of stone trellis-work, which reached as high as the top of the abacus of the twelve large pillars, and with them, supported the roof-slabs of the centre portion of the hall, which thus received some of the daylight it needed. In this hall the worshippers must have felt as though they were standing in a forest of gigantic flowers left from the wreck of some huge primæval world. The sunlight shone through the windows at the side, but the roof over their heads—supported on leaves and flowers—glittered with the stars of the midnight sky strewed on a blue ground. Wherever the eye turned it fell on pictures of the king offering to the gods, and receiving gifts at their hands. Many of the columns are now overthrown, and others tottering to a fall, but perhaps this marvel of architecture may have been less impressive at the time of its newness and use than it is now, when we are able to see it as a whole, and in connection with the half-ruined chambers and obelisks in the background. While the hymns in praise of Amon were yet sung in this hall, and perfumed resin burnt before him, at Thebes—as at Dendera—none but the initiated were admitted to the hypostyle, and here, as there, the outer walls were used for the display of historical pictures and inscriptions. (p. 275)



186 x 242mm (7.3 x 9.5 inches)

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