Mortuary temples (or funerary temples) are temples that erected adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, royal tombs in Ancient Egypt. The temples designed to commemorate the reign of the Pharaoh under whom they constructed. As well as for use by the king’s cult after death. Some refer to these temples as a cenotaph. These temples also used to make sacrifices of food and animals.

A mortuary temple categorized as a monument.

History of Mortuary temples

Mortuary temple
Deir el-Bahari

Mortuary temples built around pyramids in the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom. However, once the New Kingdom pharaohs began constructing tombs in the Valley of the Kings, they built their mortuary temples separately. These New Kingdom temples called “mansions of millions of years” by the Egyptians.

The mortuary temples also used as a resting place for the boat of Amun at the time of the Beautiful Festival of the Valley. During which the cult statue of the deity visited the west bank of Thebes.

It was a part of the king’s job to ensure that these mortuary temples would be built for the gods. The Egyptian word for temple even means “god’s house”. The king wanted to build his mortuary temple so that he could continue to carry out his cult even after he died.

Some of the first mortuary temples built with mud, bricks, or reeds. These temples discovered through artwork including pottery. Mortuary temples were not made out of stone until the age of the Middle Kingdom.

The first mortuary temple built for Amenhotep I of the 18th Dynasty during the New Kingdom. Several other rulers of this dynasty built temples for the same purpose. The best known being those at Deir el-Bahari, where Hatshepsut built beside the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II, and that of Amenhotep III, of which the only major extant remains are the Colossi of Memnon.

Ramesses II constructed his own temple, referred to as the Ramesseum (a name given to it by Champollion in 1829): “Temple of a million years of Usermaatre Setepenre which is linked with Thebes-the-Quoted in the Field of Amun, in the West”.

Much later, during the 20th Dynasty, Ramesses III constructed his own temple at Medinet Habu.