Architecture in History
October 2, 2012
New Kingdom Egyptian Temples and Early Christian Churches
One of the most spectacular things about art history is being able to see how artistic works can vary across cultures and in passing time. However, art does not always completely change, and often times two artists or even two entire civilization can create works that are independent, yet share stark similarities in style or function to a creation or creations of another artist or civilization. The Egyptian New Kingdom, which spanned from approximately 1550 – 1070 BCE, and the era of the Early Christian Church, while separated by thousands of miles and more than a millennium, are two examples of civilizations that have created such comparable works. Aside from the fact that both structures were associated with tremendous religious, and often political, significance, New Kingdom Temples and Early Christian Churches were erected with a longitudinal progression and striking structural similarities. One of the most notable differences between New Kingdom Temples and the early Christian Churches are their outer façades. The basilica of St. Apollinaire Nuovo at Ravenna provides a great example of the plain, brick exterior that was characteristic of the early Christian basilicas, however, these simple walls were only the outer shell to a vast and elaborate interior. This is quite different in style and function from the New Kingdom Temples, such as the Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, whose façade exhibits colossal rock cut figures and pylon gates. Unlike early Christians, most Egyptians were not even permitted to enter their temples, and thus could only appreciate them from their exteriors. This intimidating exterior was as much of the temple that most people would see, and, as a result, it served the aesthetic purpose of forbidding the public’s progression to the interior, while the unassuming exterior of the Christian...