White Chapel of Senusret I in Karnak temple Luxor Egypt | Facts, History, Layout | Architectural Design, inscriptions & decorations and more about Pharaonic Temples in Open-Air Museum Karnak.
Before we talk about the White Chapel of Senusret I at the Open-Air Museum, Karnak temple, Luxor, we will introduce in brief About Senusret I and why she is very famous in ancient Egyptian History. Meanwhile, his white chapel at Karnak has a very unique roof with a cavetto cornice, unlike the new kingdom’s straight walls.
All Egypt tour packages or Nile Cruises include Karnak temple in the itinerary. However, Egypt tours, and Luxor Tours from Hurghada and Marsa Alam include the temple as a source of information about the Ancient Egyptian civilization during the New Kingdom.
White Chapel of Senusret I
Who was Pharoah Senusret I?
Senusret I was the son of Amenemhat I and his wife was Nefertitanen, the second Pharoah of the Twelfth Dynasty, Middle Kingdom of Egypt. According to the Turin Papyrus, Senusret I ruled from 1971 BC to 1926 BC for about 45 years.
However, seems Sesostris I (Senusret I) was co-regent with his father Amenemhat I and ascended to the throne after the murder of his father, Amenemhet I. In general, Senusret I Kheperkare was the second king of the 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom of Egypt.
How to get to the White Chapel of Senusret I?
If you are visiting the Karnak temple, you will cross the Karnak harbor then you will reach the temple through Sphinx Avenue. Once you pass the first Pylon, you will find yourself in the open court, and walk 300 meters to the huge stage of Ramesses II before the Second Pylon. Turn left and go straight away to the Open-Air Museum, you will find the White Chapel after the Sekhmet statues.
How much does it cost to visit White Chapel?
The White Chapel of Senusret I is included in the standard ticket of the Karnak temple means it is a free place to visit together with the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut and Ptah temple.
Opening hours to visit the White chapel?
All day long from 06.00 am to 17.00 pm.
Facts About the White Chapel of Senusret I
- The white chapel is located now in the Open-Air Museum in the Karnak temple.
- We do not know where it originally stood
- The builder is Senusret I, the second Pharoah of the Twelfth Dynasty, Middle Kingdom of Egypt
- They used the limestone for constructing the White Chapel
- Senusret I white chapel is an almost square building that measures 6.8 x 6.45 meters
- The reliefs are sunkreliefs
- The Chapel has four interior pillars surrounded by twelve pillars all around, each is 2.6m in height and is 0.6m across and 0.6m deep
- Most probably the White Chapel was the barque chapel of Amun during Heb-Sed Feat.
- It was found as filling material for the 3rd Pylon of Karnak temple and dates back to Amenhotep III.
- 1000 pieces of limestone were found, recollected and they made the White Chapel
- In 1924, Pierre Lacau asked Henri Chevrier to repair the third Pylon
- In 1940, Henri Chevrier succeeded to recollect the 1000 pieces and it ends with a small kiosk for Senusret I was used during the Hed-Sed Festival
- The White chapel is a very important source for our information about the Nomes (governorates) in ancient Egypt
- It provides information about the yearly flood level during the Middle Kingdom.
Why did he build?
Ancient Egyptian civilization enjoyed a lot of feasts from the Old Kingdom till the end of ancient Egyptian History. One of these feasts was the Heb-Sed Feast or the Jubilee feast.
During Egyptian History, the ancient Egyptians believe that everything happens because of the King. The Nile floods because of the king, the plants grow because of the King, and it rains because of the king, so the king had to be powerful.
Heb-Sed Festival to ensure the king is powerful and it was celebrated since Djoser, 3rd Dynasty Old Kingdom of Egypt. Pharoah Senusret, I reigned for 45 years and he celebrated his Heb-Sed after 30 years and he built that Shrine to celebrate one of the most important festivals of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
The Chapel was used during the Heb-Sed festival as a kiosk or Shrine for the Barque of the God Amun. Later on, during The New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, they added an Altar made out of red granite. That was not all, for celebrating the feast, he erected two Obelisks in Heliopolis and rebuilt Osiris temple at Abydos.
White Chapel Layout | Architectural Design of the White Chapel
Far from the fact that the White Chapel is a small architectural structure but it is one of the best things to do in Karnak. The inscriptions and bas-reliefs designs are of very good quality. The shrine is almost square in shape as it is 6.8 × 6.45 meters with a staircase or ramp on two sides of the White Chapel. The entrances of the Chapels most probably had wooden doors.
The Chapel has 4 columns inside supporting the roof and 12 external columns with a low, rounded balustrade between them. The most important point is the chapel has the names of different Egyptian Nomes of Egypt in the Middle Kingdom.
Another exceptional feature here is, that the roof had a cavetto cornice and there was torus molding at the corners different from the New Kingdom style. Finally, there is a small window on each side.
The inscriptions & decorations of the White Chapel
- Some of the scenes were badly damaged, and some were restored but whatever we can see now shows the high quality of the art in the Middle Kingdom.
- There is a scene for Senusret I in front of the God boat burning incense or offering sacrifices
- The King with the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and White Crown of Upper Egypt in front of Amun Min
- Another scene for Pharaoh Sesostris I (1962-1928 BC) 12th Dynasty, receiving the Key of Life from God Amun
- King offers bread to the gods
- Both sides of the entrance carry bas-reliefs inscriptions for the names and titles of the king.
- There are representations of the God Hapi, God of the Nile offering the best from all the Egyptian Nomes on the bottom of the walls.
- There 4 sides of the White Chapel carry the representation of the lists of the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt.
- Columns carrying traditional scenes for the King with Egyptian Deities such as Amun, Amun Min, Ptah, Re-Horakhty
- On one side of the entrance and its double scenes means one wall is like a mirror to the second we can read at the top
- Lord of the Sky, the great god, the living son of Ra then one of the 5 names of the king, the beloved of Amun Ra living forever.
If you are looking for the best thing to do in Luxor and as long as Luxor was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom (1550-1080 BC).
Your visit to the White Chapel will be a different experience as it dates back to the Middle Kingdom. Meanwhile, a chance to learn more about some ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and Egyptian art, and Egyptian Architecture.
White Chapel in Karnak in the Open-Air Museum is very close to the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut. Together, they are close to Ptah temple with the Sekhmet shrine. These 3 places together with Osiris Chapel and Mut temple in Karnak would be a great idea for anybody who has time and wants to see something unique and different in Karnak Complex.
While you are in Luxor, you can visit some more Pharaonic temples. For example, on the East bank of the Nile like Luxor temple, Khonsu temple, Botanical Garden, and Karnak Calendar.