In Search of the Pharaoh's Daughter - X

Statues of King Rameses II Stand Guard Amongst Columns at the Temple of Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


If you love old columns—as I do—Luxor is for you.  In fact, what are ancient stone columns but an architectural form of sculpture?  And I love all sculpture including columns and (especially) their capitals.

There are two significant temples in Luxor (the city once called Thebes), each packed with handsome stone columns: the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak.  Between the two temples lies a 1.8 mile processional walkway called the Avenue of Sphinxes.  In ancient times, on certain festivals, statues of the gods would be carried in procession from one temple to the other.  This lane was once lined along both sides with over 600 sphinxes.  Many remain, though some of them are now damaged or missing.


Hypostyle Hall of Painted Columns in the Temple of Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


A "Hypostyle Hall" is a grand room filled with columns—much like a forest of columns in an enclosed space.  Often this hall was an antechamber to a more sacred room.  The photo above shows the Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Luxor. Significant traces of the original paint can be seen on many of the columns and beams. 


A Forecourt of "Closed-Bud" Lotus Columns in the Temple of Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


Above is shown a courtyard, lined with double rows of "closed bud" lotus columns.  Many Ancient Egyptian capitals were decorated with stylized botanical motifs.  In some cases, each neighboring column would have a uniquely-designed capital—inspired by lotus, papyrus, palm, and other plants (or sometimes a combination of plants on one capital). 


Traces of Early Christian Imagery in the Temple of Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


Over time, Ancient Egyptian religious spaces may have been appropriated by future religions, both Egyptian and foreign.  For example, one pharaoh may have imposed the "cult" of a specific deity (or deities) to replace that of a preceding pharaoh.  Such an example involves King Akhenaten who imposed a monotheistic religion worshipping Aten alone (represented as the radiant solar disc).  This Pharaoh ordered the carved-stone images of certain, previous gods to be desecrated—chiseled-out completely or in part.  Akhenaten's successor, born Tut-ankh-aten, took the coronation name Tut-ankh-amun and restored the earlier poly-theistic religion in Egypt—especially promoting the cult of  Amun, the creator god, who remained one of the most important ancient deities from this point forward.

As new, foreign religions took root, temples were appropriated and adapted to suit the new theology.  Sometimes old images of the "pagan" gods were desecrated, literally chipped-out of the walls.  New images were added.  Byzantine Christians (in the Fourth Century AD) made evangelical inroads in Egypt.  They desecrated certain ancient images and added new artwork of their own, like the painting of Christians (saints? apostles?) shown above, in the Temple of Luxor.  In the Seventh Century, Islamic forces took charge and their religion grew in dominance to this day.  Conservative Muslim theology does not accept the worship of idols; in fact many Islamic theologians forbid the portrayal of human forms at all.  Today, 90% of Egypt is Muslim (overwhelmingly Sunni).  There is a dwindling number of Christians and Jews—whose numbers were more substantial in the past.  Despite the Muslim majority, it seems that most Egyptians are religiously moderate and are content to let the old images stand.  Practically speaking, they are a great source of wealth (just in tourist dollars).  Most Egyptian Muslims seem tolerant of allowing old images (which they do not worship) to exist peacefully.  They are also a point of ancient cultural pride.


The Sun Sets on the Temple of Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


Above, a final shot of Luxor Temple at sunset.  Rows of handsome columns lead inward, away from the temple entrance, called a "pylon."  


Rows of Sculpted Ram-Sphinxes at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


At the other end of the Avenue of Sphinxes lies the Temple of Karnak, amongst the largest in Egypt—and renovated, restored and redecorated over  a 1500 year period.  Shown above, a phalanx of ram-headed sphinxes.  These beasts are associated with the God Amun. Between their paws, they protect a likeness of the Pharaoh Rameses II.


Painted Columns in the Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


The glorious Hypostyle Hall in the Temple of Karnak is a forest of wonderfully-painted carved-stone columns.  Today, conservators clean-off-centuries of dirt and restore what remains of the original paint.  My guide assures me that these conservators do not add paint; they simply remove the top layers of grime, revealing the original paint below. Italian conservators have contributed much know-how and cutting-edge technology from similar work back in Italy.


A Field of "Spare Parts" at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


Behind the temple complex lies an open field of carved stone pieces—"spare parts" if you will.  As these pieces of the puzzle are sorted, evaluated and determined, they can be used to re-build columns, sculpture or other architectural features.  Shown above, a drum-like portion of a tall stone column.  Disks like these were stacked to form columns, with a central, square shaft of wood or metal. 


The White Chapel at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt (LEO Design)


Shown above, a remarkable little building, The White Chapel of Sesostris I.  It was built of limestone between 2040 and 1782 BC.  Some five to seven hundred years later, the building was demolished and the limestone chunks were used as filler for a new pylon, built under Amenhotep III.  In 1927, archaeologists found the pieces, so carelessly employed, and spent three years reassembling the structure which we see today.  It is a terrific example of architecture from the Middle Kingdom period and it exhibits exceptional carving upon its columns.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248