The temple of the Sphinx
What is improperly called “Temple of the Sphinx” is in fact a temple dedicated to the God Re, the famous Sun God of the Egyptians. If it was given this name it is because it was built just in front of the legs of the Sphinx , logic therefore wanted it to be associated with it. And yet, despite this proximity, this is not the case.
This temple has a curiosity, it is of similar size and shape to the lower temple of the funerary complex of Khéphren , and it was built in its alignment, like two twin temples. Their similar invoices tend to prove that they were built by the same architect, so about the same time, but this is not certain.
The temple of the Sphinx was built with blocks of limestone carved from the rock of the Giza plateau , in local quarries. Its walls were covered with blocks of pink granite from the distant quarries of Aswan, in the south of Egypt, and the interior walls were with limestones from Tourah, an underground quarry east of Cairo which has the characteristic of providing a white stone with very fine granularity. It was also used for the facing of the three great pyramids of Giza . The floors were sometimes covered with alabaster, also a very white stone. Note that some interior walls were covered with alabaster, or even granite, not just Tourah limestone.
The plan of the temple is relatively simple. First of all, you should know that it is symmetrical along the East-West axis. It has two entrances on its north face, equidistant from the corners of the building therefore (due to the symmetry). Each entrance serves the same type of corridors and rooms. First, the visitor goes through a North-South corridor which opens onto two rooms paved with granite, one to the West, the other to the North. The end of the western corridor leads to a corridor bordered by columns which adjoins the central part of the temple, the large courtyard. This corridor measures 21m long by 5 wide, the columns are made of granite.
This courtyard is very large, it measures 46m long by 23 wide and is paved with basalt stone. It has 14 passages, 2 on the North and South sides, and 5 on the East and West sides. Along the walls you can see cavities at regular intervals: It is a notch to hold statues which have nowadays disappeared, alas. The courtyard narrows twice, forming a sort of porch supported by six columns in its wide part, and two in the narrow part. At the very back there is a square niche, it probably had to accommodate a statue.
On the other side of the courtyard, on the south side, a corridor leads to two perpendicular rooms paved with alabaster.
Usage of the temple
To understand what the Temple of the Sphinx was used for, it was enough to understand how it was built. He had, in the inner courtyard, two porches which went deeper and deeper inside the temple, porches perfectly aligned with the rising and setting sun. In the Egyptian pantheon the rising sun is associated with the god Khépri and the setting sun with the god Atoum. By thus emphasizing the daily course of the Sun, this temple had no other use than to venerate the Sun God, and this all the more since the court was, most probably, to contain an altar in its center, an altar necessarily dedicated to the God Re, the Sun at its peak.
It is therefore the internal structure of the temple which makes it possible to deduce the function of the temple, and not its geographical location. This function is, moreover, corroborated by the history which teaches us that Khéphren , the pharaoh in exercise during the construction of the temple, had put forward the worship of Rê during his reign.