The Valley Temple of Chephren

The Valley Temple is assumed to have been built for Pharaoh Khafre (Chephren). The Temple is adjacent to the Great Sphinx, and large limestone blocks that were quarried from the Sphinx enclosure were used to build the outside wall of the Temple. The interior of the temple is built of granite, also large, and brought downriver from Aswan. The floor of the Temple is alabaster, a rather soft stone that should show more wear than it does.

Artist is uncertain, may be Samuel Manning.
Entrance to Chephren's Valley Temple.

An interesting aspect of Khafre's Pyramid is the very large stones used in parts of the lower courses of the Pyramid, the surrounding plaza, and the Mortuary and Valley temples. (60-200 tons / 50,000-180,000 kilograms, compared to the more commonly used pyramid stones of 2-3 tons / 1800-2400 kilograms.) These are an indication to some minds that the Pyramid was built upon earlier construction. The Valley Temple is connected to the pyramid by a 500 yard long causeway. The preservation of many of the undecorated granite columns is excellent. However, the outer wall of the Temple is built from limestone blocks, which have eroded.

The limestone north wall of the Valley Temple of Chephren.

Khafra's Pyramid Temple and Granite Temple

by W M Flinders Petrie, 1897.

On the east side of Khafra's pyramid stood a temple. The vast blocks of rock which formed the core of the walls still remain, and some of the granite casing of the interior is yet in place. It is encumbered with masses of chips, among which are pieces of the furniture of the temple, statues, vases, etc.

From this temple a causeway led down a line of the rock plateau, where a gradual and easy slope could be laid out. It is evident that this is a road of convenience, made exactly where it could be laid out with the best gradient, and distinctly not square with the pyramid or the temple, being about 15 degrees south of east. It was doubtless the road up which the material was brought for the building of the pyramid and the temple, like the roads belonging to the other pyramids. It was paved with fine stone, recessed into the rock bed. This road led down to the plain, and must have been open at the end when the material was being taken up it.

After the pyramid and its temple were finished, the road was utilized as a junction between the pyramid temple at the top of it, which was built square with the pyramid, and another (granite) temple near the plateau's edge, which was built with a skew entrance in continuation of the road.

This is a point of great importance as proving the age of the granite temple. Both of these temples are oriented square to the points of the compass, but the road between them is askew for reasons of its construction.

The lower temple passage is all one with the line of the skew road. This skew passage was not adapted to the road after the rest of the temple was built, for there are no signs of any reconstruction. The doorway in the corner of the great hall is askew in the wall, so that it could not have been altered without pulling down all that end of the building. The courtyard on the top of the temple, and the stairs of access to the top, are also dependent on this skew passage, which is built in one compact mass with the whole body of the temple. Hence the granite temple must be subsequent to the roadway and to the building and finishing of the pyramid and temple of Khafra, and as his statues were found in this temple, the building of it may be almost certainly attributed to Khafra.

Lower level, Chephren's Temple in an 1899 photograph.

This granite temple, often misnamed the temple of the Sphinx, is really a free-standing building on the plain at the foot of the hills, but it is so much encumbered by sand that it is often supposed to be subterranean. The upper part of it now consists only of the great blocks of inferior rock which formed the core of the walls. The lower story of it inside is perfect, and outside of it the casing still remains, showing that it was decorated with the primitive pattern of recessing.

The origin of this pattern is unknown. Probably it is derived from brick decoration, as it is found equally in the earliest brickwork in Egypt (Medum) and in Babylonia (Wuswas; see Loftus, Chaldea, 172-179).

The whole of the surfaces inside are of red granite, or white alabaster. The essential parts of it are a T-shaped hall with the stem toward the pyramid, and a long hall parallel with, and adjoining, the head of the T.

From the T-hall opens a chamber with three long recesses, each divided into an upper and lower part by a thick shelf. These recesses are of alabaster, and from their form probably contained sarcophagi. This chamber, and one opening from the entrance passage, retain their roofs complete, with ventilating slits along the top of the wall.

Over the T-hall was an open court, reached by a sloping way, which turns in the thickness of the wall, from the entrance passage. The long hall is higher than the T-hall, and had a large recess above each of the doors which occupy the ends of it. These recesses seem as if they might be for statues, as there is no access to them, and they were closed at the back. The diorite statue of Khafra was found in this hall, thrown into a well, or subterranean chamber. This is now filled up, and no proper account was ever given by the explorers.
Excerpted from: A History Of Egypt,
From the Earliest Times to the XVIth Dynasty,
by William Mathew Flinders Petrie, London, 1897.

Granite columns, Valley Temple of Chephren.

Edited Excerpts from: The Journal
of Lt-Colonel George A. F. Fitzclarence
We proceeded to the remains of what is supposed to have been a portico, (the mortuary temple of Chephren / Khafre), to the east of the Second Pyramid. The temple has three entrances, one to the east, one to the north, and, I think, another to the south, but at the moment this large building was so secondary an object in comparison with the wonder of the world before me, that I did not pay so much attention to it as I have since wished I had.

View from Chephren's Valley Temple looking East toward the Nile.

It is absolutely a horizontally built Stonehenge. Some of the blocks of limestone are of an immense size; and two which were particularly pointed out to me, one upon the other, on the east side, forming part of the north-east angle, Belzoni told me were 24 feet long (7 meters), 8 in breadth (2 1/2 meters), and the same in thickness (est. 70 tons / 63,500 kg). From their great age they are perfectly honeycombed and united together, though their original separation is distinctly seen from their sharp edges being rounded by time. The walls of this portico are not above twice, or at the utmost thrice, the breadth of these stones in height.

What may be under the ground I know not; but it appears to me that this temple either never was completed, or the finish of the building must have been of much lighter and less lasting materials than what is left.

The vastness of these works makes it possible that in an early age magnitude was the object aimed at by the builders. The Mortuary Temple of Chephren in the size of its stones will not yield to any other remains in Egypt. From its great antiquity, and its lack of sculpture, it is possible that ornamenting these immense masses may have been the addition of a subsequent age.
(It seems the lower level of the Temple was still buried in the sand at the time of Mr Fitzclarence's visit.)
Excerpt from:
"Journal of a route across India,
through Egypt to England
in 1817 and 1818"
by Lt. Colonel George Fitzclarence
Published in 1819.
Adapted and edited for, 2006.

West wall, Chephren's Valley Temple
by William Henry Goodyear.

Panorama facing west, 1907.

Plan of Chephren's Valley Temple,
east is at the top,
by E. A. Wallis Budge.


The Diorite Statue of Chephren

Valley Temple of Khafre.
Statue niches are on the floor,
treasure hunters have damaged them.
Photograph by Joseph Hawkes.

Twenty three shallow niches line the floor of the Valley Temple of Chephren. In 1858 Auguste Mariette discovered a diorite statue of Chephren buried in the well of the Valley Temple, along with some pieces of other statues. Mariette found the statue's base matched the niches in the temple, causing him to conclude that there were 23 of these statues. The statue that Mariette found, now in the Cairo Museum, is considered one of the world's greatest artworks. Perhaps the other 22 statues still lie buried near Chephren's Valley Temple.

Statue of Chephren from the Valley Temple.
Now in the Cairo Museum.
Photograph from EgyptArchive.

A Very Special Statue

by W M Flinders Petrie, 1897.

The statues of Khafra have brought us face to face with him, and caused his features to be almost as well known in our times as in his own reign. The great diorite statue is a marvel of art. The precision of the expression combines what a man should be to win our feelings, and what a king should be to command our regard. The subtlety shown in this combination of expression, the ingenuity in the overshadowing hawk, the technical ability in executing this in so resisting a material, all unite in fixing our regard on this as one of the leading examples of ancient art. Six other statues of lesser size were also found in the granite temple, carved in diorite and green basalt. A smaller statue of fine work in alabaster was in the group of early statues lately found at Sakkara. All of these are now in the Ghizeh (Giza) Museum.
Excerpted from: A History Of Egypt,
From the Earliest Times to the XVIth Dynasty,
by William Mathew Flinders Petrie, London, 1897.

Pharaoh was believed to incarnate the falcon god Horus on Earth.
Here Horus protects and guides the Pharaoh,
although he cannot be seen by the common people viewing him from the front.

wings of the Sun.

Ancient Egypt's Age of the Pyramids

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Climbing the Great Pyramid
The Great Pyramid of Cheops
The Second Greatest Pyramid - Chephren
Valley Temple of Chephren (Khafre)
The Pyramid of Menkaure
The Great Sphinx
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The Pyramids of Sneferu
The Greatest Mystery of All.

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