1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Ancient Egyptian Architecture: Temple of Edfoo [Edfu]

(Part 12)

Ancient Egyptian Architecture (cont.)

Temple of Edfoo [Edfu]

The structure selected here to exemplify Egyptian architecture, and figure in elevation, plan and details in Plate VII, though not ranked among the Pharaonic monuments, is perfectly characteristic of the style and arrangement of Egyptian temples, and is a more regular specimen than any other possessing the natural peculiarities. It is known as a temple of Apollinopolis Magna, or of Edfoo [Edfu], in Upper Egypt, on the banks of the Nile, between Thebes and the first cataract. It has recently been cleared out, and its magnificent Ruins now stand forth grandly and clearly.

The plan of the enclosure behind the propylaea is a long parallelogram, the moles or propylaea themselves forming another across one of its ends, the grand entrance to the great court of the temple is by a doorway between the moles, to which there may have been folding gates, for the notches, as for their hinges, are still be seen. Small chambers, right and left of the entrance, and in the core of propylaea, were probably for the porters or guards of the temple: a staircase remains on each side, which leads to other chamber at different height. To furnish these with light and air, loop-holes have been cut through the external walls, disfiguring the front of the structure. The grand doorway (fig.4) is about 50 feet high, and flanked by two massive tower 110 feet high. The whole façade measures about 250 feet, or about 70 feet longer than that of St Paul’s. The propylon is covered with numerous figures, all of colossal proportions, and some high of 40 feet. The court is 160 feet by 140, and surrounded on the three sides by columns 32 feet high, forming a covered gallery. The pronaos, or covered portico, measures 110 feet by 44, and parallel and equidistant, except in the middle, where the intercolumniation is greater, because of the passage trough. The front row of columns is close by a sort of breastwork of dado, extending to nearly half their height, in which moreover they are half-embedded; and in the central opening a peculiar doorway is formed, consisting of piers, with the lintel and cornice over them cut through, as exhibited in the elevation of the portico. From the pronaos another doorway leads to an atrium or inner vestibule, consisting of three rows of smaller columns, with four in each, distributed as those of the pronaos are. Beyond this vestibule there are sundry close rooms and cells, with passages and staircases which were probably used for storing the sacred utensils. The insulted chamber within the sixth door was most probably the adytum, or shrine of the deity or deities to whom the temple was dedicated. It measures only about 33 feet by 17 feet, while the whole edifice within the walls covers about as much ground as St Paul’s, London.

The longitudinal section of the edifice (fig. 3) shows the relative heights of the various parts, and the mode constructing the soffits or ceilings, which are the same material as the walls and columnar ordinances; that is, in some cases granite, and in other freestone. The elevation of the pronaos (fig. 2) shown also a transverse section of colonnades and peribolus. It displays most of the general features of Egyptian columnar architecture; the unbroken continuity of outline, the pyramidal tendency of the composition, and the boldness and breadth of every part. The good taste with which the interspaces of the columns are covered may be remarked. Panels standing between the columns would have had very ill effect, both internally and externally; and if a continued screen had been made, the effect would be still worse, as the columns must then have appeared from the outside absurdly short; but as it is, their height is perfectly obvious, and their formed is rendered clear by the constant of the light shade occasioned by the projection of the panels, which would not exist if they had been detailed between the columns. The lotus ornaments at the foot of the panels is particularly simple and elegant; and nothing can be more graceful and effective than the cyma above their cornice, which is singularly enriched with ibis mummy-cases (fig. 6 and 7). The jambs forming a false doorway in the central interface are blemish in the composition; they injured it very much by the abruptness of their form, and their want of harmony with anything else in it. The front elevation of the moles or propylaea (fig. 1) with the grand entrance between them is peculiarly Egyptian; a very little variety is discoverable between the earliest and latest specimens of this species of structure. It is an object that must be seen to be appreciated; simplicity and inherent impressiveness in the pyramidal tendency are all on which it has to depend for effect, with the exception of its magnitude. The projecting fillet and coving which form a cornice to the structures, though large and bold, appear small inefficient when compared with the bulk they crown; and there is nothing particularly striking in the torus which marks the lateral outline and separates the straight line of the front from the circular of the cornice. Neither are they dependent for their effect on the sculpture, for their appearance is as impressive at a distance, which makes the latter indistinct, as when they are seen near at hand.

A portion of portico is given in a larger scale (fig. 5), to show more clearly the forms and arrangement of Egyptian columnar composition. The shaft of the column in this example is perfectly cylindrical. It rest on a square step, or continued stylobate, without the intervention of a plinth or base of any kind; and it has no regular vertical channelling or enrichment, such as fluting, but is marked horizontally with series of grooves, and inscribed with hieroglyphics. The capital are of different sizes and forms in the same ordinance. In this example the capital, exclusive of its receding abacus, is about one diameter of the column in height. Its outline is that of cyma, with a reversed ovolo fillet above and its enrichment consist principally of lotus flowers. The capital of the column next to this (fig. 2), in the front line, is much taller, differently formed, and ornamented with palm leaves; the third is of the same size and outline as the first, but differently ornamented; and the corresponding columns on the other side centre have capitals corresponding with these, each to its fellow, in the arrangement. Above the capital there is a square block or receding abacus, which has the effect of a deepening of the entablature, instead of a covering of the columns, when the capital spread, as in this case. In the earlier Egyptian diminished in two unequal length, the result is different, and the form and size of the abacus appear perfectly consistent. The height of this columns and its capital, without the abacus, is six diameters. The entablature consist of an architrave and cornice, there being no equivalent for the frieze of a Greek entablature, unless the coving be so considered, in which case the cornice becomes a mere shelf. The architrave, including the torus, is about three-quarters of a diameter in height, which is half that of the whole entablature. The architrave itself is in this example sculptured in low relief, but otherwise plain. The torus, which returns and runs down the angles of the building, is gracefully banded, something like the manner in which the fasces are represented in Roman works. The coving is divided into compartments by vertical flutes, which have been thought to be the origin of triglyphs in a Doric frieze; but these are arranged without the reference to the columns, and are in other respects so totally different from them as to given but little probability to the suggestion. The compartments are beautifully enriched with hieroglyphics, except in the centre, where winged globe is sculptured, surmounting another on the architrave, as shown in the elevation of the pronaos. The crowning table or fillet is quite plain and unornamented. Angular roofs are unknown in ancient Egyptian buildings, and consequently pediments are unknown in its architecture.

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