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Ancient Egypt

Temples and Priests

History >> Ancient Egypt

Why did they build temples?

The pharaohs of Egypt built the temples as houses for the Egyptian gods. Inside the temples, priests performed rituals in hopes of gaining the favor of the gods and to protect Egypt from the forces of chaos.

There were two main types of temples built in Ancient Egypt. The first type is called a Cultus temple and was built to house a specific god or gods. The second type is called a Mortuary temple and was built to worship a dead pharaoh.

Relief painting of a priest
by Unknown
Typical Design

Over time, the temples of Ancient Egypt grew into large complexes with many buildings. At the center of the temple was the inner chambers and the sanctuary which housed a statue of the god. This is where the high priest would hold rituals and give offerings to the god. Only the priests could enter these sacred buildings.

Around the sanctuary, other smaller rooms would hold lesser gods and companions to the primary god of the temple. Outside the inner chambers would be other buildings including large halls filled with columns and open courts. The entrance to the temple often had tall pylons that served as guardians to the temples.


Working in the temples were the priests and priestesses. There was typically a high priest that was assigned by the pharaoh. The high priest performed the most important rituals and managed the business of the temple. Working as a priest was considered a good job and was a sought after position by wealthy and powerful Egyptians.

Priests had to be pure in order to serve the gods. They washed twice a day, shaved their heads, and wore only the cleanest linen clothing and leopard skins.


Priests performed daily rituals in the temples. Every morning the high priest would enter the sanctuary and anoint the god's statue with sacred oil and perfume. He would then put ceremonial clothing and paint on the statue. After that he would make offerings of food such as bread, meat, and fruit.

Other rituals and offerings would be made throughout the day in shrines outside the inner sanctuary. Rituals sometimes included music and hymns.


Throughout the year, the temples would celebrate events with festivals. Many festivals were open to the local people and not just the priests. Some of the festivals involved large processions where one god would visit the temple of another god.


The larger temple complexes were major economic hubs in Ancient Egypt. They employed thousands of workers to supply food, jewelry, and clothing for the offerings as well as the many priests. The temples often owned land and collected grain, gold, perfumes, and other gifts from people wanting to earn the favor of the gods.

Interesting Facts about the Temples and Priests of Ancient Egypt Activities

More information on the civilization of Ancient Egypt:

Timeline of Ancient Egypt
Old Kingdom
Middle Kingdom
New Kingdom
Late Period
Greek and Roman Rule

Monuments and Geography
Geography and the Nile River
Cities of Ancient Egypt
Valley of the Kings
Egyptian Pyramids
Great Pyramid at Giza
The Great Sphinx
King Tut's Tomb
Famous Temples
Egyptian Food, Jobs, Daily Life
Ancient Egyptian Art
Entertainment and Games
Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
Temples and Priests
Egyptian Mummies
Book of the Dead
Ancient Egyptian Government
Women's Roles
Hieroglyphics Examples
Amenhotep III
Cleopatra VII
Ramses II
Thutmose III

Inventions and Technology
Boats and Transportation
Egyptian Army and Soldiers
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Egypt

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