Every first Monday in May, the Temple of Dendur is surrounded by the most influential personalities in the arts, fashion, film, and music. Among the most intricate haute couture pieces of the time, the Temple of Dendur possesses the most presence during the night. Gallery 131 in the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is where the Temple of Dendur resides. The Temple of Dendur is known to be one of 17 buildings that Augustus commissioned for the local gods. We are still unclear when the Temple of Dendur was exactly made but it is understood that it was built during 20 or 15 B.
C. and completed by 10 B.C. considering the context of the Augustus’ life and death. While the temple was commissioned by Augustus, it was built by Petronius. Made out of aeolian sandstone, the Temple of Dendur was built in lower Nubia and was later dismantled and reassembled in New York City to save the site from submerging into the Lake Nasser.
With the temple house being height and width of 21 feet and the length of 41 feet and the gate being 26.5 feet tall, the temple house and the gate do not perfectly align. The reason for that is still unknown. However, when seen from the front, the actual temple house being hidden from the gate creates a safe and intimate feeling. Hidden behind the opening of the gate are the two side walls extending all the way to the porch framing the two quatrefoil columns and the entrance. Temples with this particular way of an entrance are called distyle in antis which was a common way of building temples during the Ptolemaic era.
While the original temple stood on a large platform on top of the Nile river in lower Nubia, the newly assembled temple sits on a modified version for both display and durability.
When you follow the edges of the temple from the granite platform to the roof, the edges are often rounded at the top – both the tori and the cavetto are rounded reminiscing of the later built Japanese toriis. The curved details derive from earlier construction methods. Inside the temple are three aligned rooms – entrance hall, offering hall, then the sanctuary. Most of the exterior of the temple and some parts of the inner rooms are decorated with scenes. On the southern wall of the temple, there are two scenes of Augustus burning incense and offering to the god and goddess. This depiction shows that Dendur was a residence for a deity and where they received offerings and where the incense was burned.
The depiction of the offering also may explain the small secret chamber attached to the sanctuary being a storage unit for cult equipment. The scenes that were depicted on the temple were often paired with hieroglyphic inscriptions. Right above the offering scene that can be found on the southern wall of the temple, there are two cartouches – Egyptian hieroglyphs – that reads emperor and Caesar written in sunk relief. Or often times the ring-shaped hieroglyphs will just read Pharaoh. When scenes and hieroglyphs are depicted on the sandstone blocks of the Temple of Dendur, sunk relief was used for the exterior of the temple while they used raised relief for the interior. The sunk relief method, where they carve out the outline of the figures created a deep shadow under the natural light and the raised relief method where they carved out the background so that the figures are raised created a sculpture like feeling. Other than offering scenes and hieroglyphs, the Temple of Dendur possesses many symbolic details.