|Page 1 (you are on page 1)
|The monument, presentation
|Exterior South (front) wall
Exterior West wall
Exterior North (back) wall
Exterior East wall
Vestibule West wall
Vestibule East wall
Sanctuary West wall
Sanctuary East wall
Orientation of the building
The front door of the Red Chapel as reconstructed between
1997-2001 in the Open Air Museum faces to the south ('local
Karnak') and the back door to the north. The OAM (Open Air
Museum) is situated to the north of the western part of
the first court of Karnak Temple. The north-south axis of
the Red Chapel is perpendicular to the main axis (east-west)
of the temple of Karnak. The chapel was build by Queen Hatshepsut,
18th Dynasty, and is supposed to have been erected in the
centre of Ipet-sut (Karnak) temple, in the same place or
nearly the same, where now the granite shrine from the time
of Philip Arrhidaeus is standing.
The front door of the Red Chapel would then have faced
towards the west. If that location is true, then it is now
turned 90 degrees counter clockwise (to the south), but
that way it at least gives better sunlight on the long sides
of the chapel.
In most publications of the Red Chapel, the supposed original
orientation of the building are used to reference the walls,
that is, the front entrance wall is called the west side,
and the side where the Opet Festival scenes are carved on
the 3rd course, is called the chapel southern exterior wall,
but now that wall faces to the east ('local east'), and
that makes it a bit complicated…One has to be aware
which system (the original or as it is now) is used in a
In this text and in the legend of the photos the new orientation
system is used.
So, the north, south, east and west directions in the text
and the photos, make reference to the 'local Karnak' directions
as the chapel is reconstructed in the OAM.
It was conventional for the old Egyptians to give directions
for a building in relation to the Nile, which is always
supposed to run from the south to the north, as it normally
does, but not here in the Luxor region, where it runs to
the geographical north-east.
The Karnak centre axis is used as the reference axis in
the new 'Atlas of the Kings Valley' from the Theban Mapping
Project, as their base west/east axis; that is, the TMP
grid is based on the Karnak axis.
The chapel is called the Red Chapel because it is build
of blocks of red quartzite, though the foundation, doorframes
and the cornice are in black diorite.
The red quartzite is a very uncommon type of stone to be
used as a building material in pharaonic times in Egypt.
The building has two rooms, a vestibule (south) and a sanctuary
The chapel is build like a brick building, it has 8 courses
with alternative courses as 'headers' (short blocks) course
2, 4, 6 and 8, and 'stretchers' (long blocks) course 3,
5 and 7.
The blocks are very uniform in their size, they are all
of the exact same height (excl. course 8). A 'header' block
has as the exact size of the thickness of the walls, and
they have decoration on both of their sides, one for the
exterior and one for the interior wall. Only the lenght
(along the wall) of the blocks can vary, of both the 'stretchers'
and the 'headers', but overall they are very evenly sized.
Please have a look here: redchap_outside
The outside walls have 9 courses.
The first course is the foundation in double high black
diorite blocks with a little edge halfway up. Then comes
7 red courses. Courses 2 to 7 is made of blocks of red quartzite,
which have the same height in all courses.
Course 8 (header) is also made of blocks of red quartzite,
but they are a little higher, as there is an added horizontal
torus moulding in the upper part of the blocks.
Course 9 is the black cornice blocks, the outwards rounded
top-finish used in almost all egyptian buildings.
Only the outside front entrance wall (south) is different;
it has an added double high red quartzite row as course
9, and the cornice top is then course 10.
The black base blocks all have a uniform decoration, they
show Nile gods and goddesses, who represents nomes, buildings
or other structures including canals All of them, on the
east and west walls and the north wall (back) look in the
direction of the back door. On the south (front) wall, they
look to the front door.
The floor in the vestibule is on the same level as the little
edge of the black foundation blocks, that is, at about half
the height of the black base blocks. In the sanctuary the
floor level is 20 cm lower than in the vestibule. There
is a step down at the door between the two rooms and a step
up again at the back door (north) from the sanctuary to
It is very uncommon for the sanctuary floor level to be
lower than the other rooms.
Please have a look here: redchap_inside
In both the vestibule and the sanctuary there are 8 courses
of red quartzite blocks.
Inside course 1 is at the same level as the back of the
upper part of the outside black foundation blocks.
Courses 2-8 correspond to the outside courses 2-8, remember
the 'header' blocks (short) are the same on course 2, 4,
6 and 8. In the sanctuary there is an added 20 cm course
below the 1. ordinary red course, to compensate for the
20 cm lower floor level, or rather it is a plinth protruding
a little from the wall, decorated with a lettuce frieze.
In the reconstruction there is no inside course at the back
of the cornice blocks (outside course 9) and neither at
the back of course 9 and 10 of the front wall.
The space may have been used by the now missing roof blocks
? In fact, there is no roof in the reconstructed chapel.
But the people who rebuilt the chapel think the chapel never
The first course in both the vestibule and the sanctuary
(at the back of the upper part of the outside black foundation
blocks) are decorated with a frieze that runs along the
long walls only.
The frieze in the vestibule is the 'rekhyt' bird standing
on a basket and they all face towards the sanctuary (north).
In the sanctuary the frieze is composed of the 'ankh'-sign,
the 'djed'-pillar and the 'was'-sceptre, all three standing
on a basket; the 'djed'-pillars all have a small cartouche
with the throne name of Hatshepsut |(Maat-ka-Ra) in the
middle. Note that the 'ankh'-sign always are on the side
of the basket that is closest to the vestibule (south).
In the vestibule there is a block stone that has been hollowed,
giving it the appearence of a 'bathtub' 135 x 80 cm and
28 cm high in the centre of the room. It probably was the
stone where the sacred bark was laid on. In the sanctuary
there are two low stone platforms. The one near the door
to the vestibule (almost in the exact centre of the chapel)
is 131 x 94 cm and 8 cm high, the platform near the back
door is 138 x 95 cm and 20 cm (?) high.
Both the 'bathtub' and the platform near the back door have
a lettuce frieze on all their 4 sides. The 20 cm high plinths
at the long walls of the sanctuary also has the lettuce
frieze. The low platform near the door to the vestibule,
in the centre of the chapel, also has a frieze. (I can't
remember if it is lettuce, it looks like but ??)
As seen when you arrive
from the OAM ticket office. Front (south)
and eastern side. Looking north.
View of the OAM near
RC. From left (south): the White Chapel (12.
dyn.), 2 alabaster chapels (Tm IV and Tm III,
18. dyn.) and front (south) of RC. Looking
The name stone at
the front and right (east) of the entrance
to the Red Chapel
Front (south) and
west side. Looking north-east