The Mortuary Temple of Seti I is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Seti I. It is located in the Theban Necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the Nile River from the modern city of Luxor (Thebes). The edifice is situated near the town of Qurna.
Location of the Temple of Seti I
The Mortuary Temple of Seti I lies in Al Qarnah, Luxor, Luxor Governorate.
The temple seems to have been constructed toward the end of the reign of Seti and may have been completed by his son Ramesses the Great after his death. One of the chambers contains a shrine dedicated to Seti’s father, Ramesses I. The ruler reigned for a little under two years and did not construct a mortuary temple for himself.
The northernmost temple of Millions of Years on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) is that of Seti I. Nineteenth-Century travellers called it the Temple of Qurna, while locals call it Qasr el-Rubaiq. The Egyptians named it “Glorious Seti in the West of Thebes” in ancient times. At one time in ancient Egypt, the administrative centre of Western Thebes was likely situated here, in the village known as Helf-her-nebes, which means “City in Front of its Master). The temple was originally named “Seti I is Beneficent in the Domain of Amen, which is on the West of Thebes”. Seti I dedicated the temple to his father and the god, Amun-Re. It was meant to compliment his most outstanding monument, the Hypostyle Hall, within the Karnak temple complex across the river.
It was reached by a canal that extended from the Nile along the main overland road on the West Bank that led to Deir el-Bahari. Because of its location on the West Bank was the first stop in the procession known as the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, a privilege it continued to hold up until the Roman period. During the Roman period, it was transformed into a work area for artisans. After Christianity came to Egypt, the northern courtyard became a church, and private housing was built within the temple.
During this period, materials from the temple were also used for other building projects. The German Archaeological Institute studied the ruins and undertook a restoration program in 1972, repairing and restoring some of the missing material.
This temple, which faces East towards Karnak, has a triple structure. The outer and middle sections consist of two open courtyards. Initially, the temple was surrounded by a mud-brick wall with tower buttresses set at intervals. The massive pylons were almost gone at the front of the outer enclosure. Just inside and against the inner part of the pylons are a pair of colossal sphinxes, though only their pedestals and some other fragments remain. However, the pedestals are inscribed with the name of Seti, and there are several “name rings”. These “name rings” are marked with the names of foreign cities, countries, and people considered Egypt’s enemies. They have been an invaluable source of geographical information to historians.
Typical of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the bas reliefs in the temple are exquisite. A hypostyle hall within the temple’s centre is decorated with elegant columns with papyrus fascicles. The south end of this area is dedicated to the cult of the king, while the northern site is dedicated to the solar cult. The sector in the north includes a courtyard with an altar in the centre. Around the altar are niches with statues of the king.
There was also a ritual palace built in the southern part of the first courtyard, a feature that would be repeated in later temples. This royal palace allowed the deceased king to materialise and participate in the fabulous festivities in the throne room, where a statue represented him.
Ramesses I had a very brief reign that was too short of building his temple. Therefore, Seti I began to construct a chapel dedicated to himself in the southern part of this temple. He never completed the chapel, but Ramesses II did, and he also constructed the great wall and the two pylons of unburned brick. These created a border between the two courtyards. At the time, an avenue of sphinxes passed between the portal of the first pylon and the hypostyle hall.
While the temple is not as grand as the later pharaohs’ works, it served as a prototype for all the Ramesside memorial temples built over two hundred years. The temple’s pylons were built with hazardous materials such as unburned brick. They have now all but disappeared. However, the temple itself, which only represents the rear third of the original structure, was made of sandstone and is in good condition.
The sacred lake lies in the back of the temple with a sloping access ramp. Also, on the north side of the temple are storage buildings, their mud-brick in much ruin, that once housed grain and other items supporting the priests and workers connected to the temple.
The entire court and any pylons associated with the site are now in ruins, and much of the eastern part of the complex is buried under the modern town of Qurna.