Located some 300 miles south of Cairo, the Temple of Seti is located in Abydos. It was built by the Seti I and his son, Rameses II. It is one of the magnificent yet underrated shrines in all of Egypt. The temple was known by the Greeks as the Memnonium. It is dedicated to more than one god: Seti I, Osiris and Isis along with Ptah, Ptah-Sokar, Nefertem, Re-Horakhty, Amun, and Horus. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the region of Abydos by historians. 

Who is Seti I and his Son Ramses II? 

Seti ruled Egypt in the Nineteenth Dynasty, presiding over the country from 1290-1279 BCE. Seti was an avid builder, inaugurating mines and quarries and renovating dilapidated temples and shrines. He was also one of the many pharaohs who contributed to the ongoing construction of the famous hypostyle hall of the Karnak Temple in Luxor. His son Ramses II was the third king of the Nineteenth Dynasty. He is known for having one of the longest reigns in ancient Egypt. It is generally believed that Seti built the entire temple by himself, doing all the heavy work. His son Ramses II most likely was responsible for the completion of the decorations and ornamentations as well as the surrounding courtyards. 

Where is the Temple of Seti Located? 

The Temple of Seti is located in the sacred ancient city of Abydos. It is about three hours by car from Luxor traveling northbound. This city is actually the location of a plethora of historical temples. However, what makes Abydos so unique and special is that it is the burial place for the very first kings of Egypt when its upper and lower kingdoms were united into one. Close to the Temple of Seti, you will also find a very old cemetery dating back to predynastic times with hundreds of graves located there. Although there were numerous temples built at Abydos, the biggest and most important is the Temple of Seti. 

A Place of Pilgrimage for the Ancient Egyptians

Abydos is considered to be one of the most significant religious sites for the ancient Egyptians. Similar to how Muslims aspire to complete a pilgrimage to Mecca, the ancient Egyptians had the same hope and dreams of completing a pilgrimage there. In fact, the sacred site was often associated with being a passageway to the afterlife.  

Why was the Temple of Seti Built?

Seti came to rule Egypt only 30 years after the turmoil that characterized the reign of the sacrilegious Akhenaten, which is also known by the name of the Amarna Period. Due to this, Seti was very dedicated to making sure he reestablished trust in the pantheon of pre-Akhenaten gods that the previous pharaoh had desired to destroy.

Due to this fact, the Temple of Seti features a series of smaller shrines or chapels that were dedicated to each of the major gods: Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis, Horus, and of course, one to Seti himself (as most pharaohs did to leave their mark on the structure and history at large).

The Ruins of the Temple of Seti

The current facade was actually once the background of the second of the temple’s two distinct courtyards. Unfortunately, the first courtyard of the two, along with its own entrance pylon, have basically turned into ruins, dilapidating slowly over the centuries. 

In fact, a lot of the temple complex is no longer present for viewing. This includes the pylon and the first two courtyards. This forces tourists to have to enter through a designated doorway directly into the hypostyle hall. However, do not let this discourage you from visiting. Although a lot is in ruins, many of the wall reliefs in the interior are well preserved. In fact, the reliefs that are located in the very back of the temple, which were established during the period of Seti’s rule, are thought to be among the most important in any of the hundreds of temples still standing today in Egypt.

What the Temple of Seti Looked Like in Antiquity

The temple took on the shape of an L. Once upon a time, it featured a ramp, two different pylons (the outer one basically in complete ruins now), a landing quay, terrace, two separate pylons, two courts, twin hypostyle halls, a serious of connected chambers on the southern end and seven different chapels for worshiping the main gods of Ancient Egypt and Seti himself. That is not all, though. There are also chambers designated for storage purposes that stretch from the temple’s southernmost wind all the way to the front entrance of the temple. The primary body of the temple was also impressively symmetrical all the way back to the seven different chapels, reflecting how significant the use of sacred geometry was to the ancient Egyptians. Although the L shaped design of the Temple of Seti was atypical for the time, studies and research suggest that the southernmost gate was actually part of the original plan, not something that was thought up after. It was a departure from the typical axial temple plan. 

Architecture and Design of the Temple of Seti

Hands down one of the most impressive spiritual buldings in Egypt, the Temple of Seti was constructed completely of fine white limestone, giving it a radiant and heavenly look. 

As visitors enter the temple through the outer courtyards—which now stands in ruins, they will see massive tanks for the worship of the temple’s priest. As far as we know, this is the first shrine in Egypt that featured these types of structures. As you make your way through the temple, one will be met by numerous rows of mud brick storage chambers clustered around a stone entrance hall. To get access to the temple, you will have to traverse a long flight of about 42 stairs.

Ramesses II’s Additions to the Temple of Seti 

The outermost pylons and courts plus the first of the two hypostyle halls—which is quite shallow and features two rows of twelve columns—were completed quickly and decorated by Seti I’s son, Ramesses II. This was his most significant contribution to the temple. 

Ramesses incorporated into the decor, a relief of him worshipping his father, Osiris and Isis. It is well known that the decor and embellishments of Ramses II were not on the same standard and capital as his father’s and were done more hastily. However, they are still significant and worthy of viewing. For example, there is an illustration of a young Ramesses II tying up a bull with his father as well as numerous military depictions in the second courtyard.