Places of Worship in Ancient Egyptian Religion
Modern Egypt is still dotted with temples and ruins of temples erected for various Egyptian gods. Ancient Egyptians didn't worship in quite the same way most people do now, however. The temples functioned more as houses for the gods rather than places for people to go to pay them homage.
1 Temple Buildings
Temples were usually large structures built from stone so they would last. They were decorated with paintings and carvings on the walls. Temples were usually built near city centers, and oriented toward a significant religious landmark. Over time, buildings were often added as needed, with the temple functioning as a small, self-sustaining city where the priests grew food, raised animals used by the inhabitants of the temple as well as for offerings to the god. The people paid for the land and buildings, as having the god protecting the town was good for everyone.
2 Temple Function
Each temple was dedicated to a certain god, and manned by priests who had the duty of caring for the needs of the god with sacrifices, caring for the land and buildings, and praying to the god. The temple was seen as the dwelling place of the god, and only the priests were allowed to enter this dwelling, although a few areas would be set aside for common people to pray. In exchange for this care, the god was supposed to protect the people.
3 Temple Priests
Priests and pharaohs were the only people allowed in most areas of the temples. It was their job to act as a sort of go-between between the people and the god. Priests would pray for things like good crops, advantageous weather or general prosperity. Priest provided food and drink for the god, and performed prayer rituals several times a day to keep the god happy. Priests did not perform sermons or try to spread the word about the god to the people; aside from festival times they had little to do with the common people.
4 Common People
During festival times, which happened several times a year, the priests would take the god to the people in the form of a temple statue. Priests would carry the statue through town or float it on a boat down the river, and the people could come and pray to the god. Aside from the processions, the people could set up small shrines in their homes for a god protector, leaving offerings and praying at the shrine if they needed help with a problem. They could also go to the part of the temple accessible to the public which usually had a small statue that people could pray and leave offerings to for help. There were no formal gatherings such as weekly church services.
- 1 The British Museum: Temples
- 2 The University of Chicago: Religion in the Lives of the Ancient Egyptians
- 3 Tour Egypt: Temples of Egypt
- 4 Eternal Egypt: Topics -- Places of Worship
- 5 Ancient Egypt: The Religion of the People -- Worship in the Temples
- 6 The Wisdom of the Egyptians: Chapter II -- Religion of Ancient Egypt