Temples and Priests of Ancient Egypt

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Why did they build temples?

The temples were constructed by the Egyptian pharaohs as residences for the gods. Priests carried out rites inside the temples in an effort to win the gods’ favor and defend Egypt from the forces of chaos.

In ancient Egypt, there were primarily two types of temples constructed. A Cultus temple is the first kind, and it was created to house a particular god or gods. The second kind, known as a Mortuary temple, was constructed to house the worship of a deceased pharaoh.

Common Design

Ancient Egyptian temples evolved into vast complexes with several structures over time. The inner rooms and sanctuary, which contained a statue of the god, were located in the middle of the temple. Here, the high priest would perform ceremonies and present sacrifices to the god. These temples were only accessible to priests.

Other, smaller rooms surrounding the sanctuary would house minor gods and the god’s companions. Other structures, such as expansive hallways lined with columns and open courts, would be located outside the inner rooms. Tall pylons that acted as guardians for the temples were frequently present at the entryway.


Priests and priestesses carried out their duties in the temples. The high priest was normally appointed by the king. The most significant ceremonies were carried out by the high priest, who also controlled the temple’s operations. Rich and powerful Egyptians sought wanted positions as priests because they were thought to be good jobs.

To serve the gods, priests had to be pure. They dressed only the purest linen garments and leopard skins, did their laundry twice daily, and shaved their heads.


Daily rites were carried out at the temples by priests. The high priest would go into the temple every morning and anoint the statue of the god with holy oil and perfume. The statue would subsequently be painted and dressed in ceremonial attire. He would then make food sacrifices, including bread, meat, and fruit.

Outside the inner sanctuary, shrines would host additional ceremonies and offerings throughout the day. Hymns and music were sometimes used during rituals.


The temples held celebrations to commemorate events all throughout the year. Not just the monks but the locals could attend many festivities. Large procession events when one god would journey to the temple of another were a part of several of the festivals.


In ancient Egypt, the largest temple complexes served as important commercial hubs. To provide food, jewels, and clothing for the offerings as well as the numerous priests, they employed thousands of workers. The temples frequently had land and gathered grain, gold, perfumes, and other presents from worshippers hoping to win the gods’ favor.

Facts to Know About Ancient Egyptian Priests and Temples:

Temple pillars and columns were frequently fashioned after revered flora like lotus and papyrus. It was thought that these plants grew on the fabled Island of Creation.

Priests occasionally presided as judges for the local populace.

With each successive pharaoh who added to the temples, their size grew over time. In ancient Egypt, several temples began as modest shrines and grew into substantial complexes by the end of the New Kingdom.

The high priest held a position of authority inside the Egyptian government as well as in society.

During times of famine, grain surpluses stored by the temples helped to feed the populace.

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