Napoleon Hall
March 6 - June 29, 2009

At the Gates of Heaven: The temple forecourt

Appropriating the invisible

Placed deep in the heart of the temple, the sacred spot containing the statue of the god was inaccessible to everyone except the king and the priests who performed daily rites. The gates of heaven hid the divine image from mortal eyes, thus protecting and sustaining the mystery of the god’s appearance and supernatural nature.

Contacting god
Depictions of tabernacles and divine statues existed in various forms in the secular world outside the temple, thus removing the wall that separated them from the human world. Contact could also be made through priestly insignia or divine emblems. Contacting god through these visual substitutes provided a direct link between the individual and the deity. Statues encouraging this practice became more numerous during periods when personal worship was dominant, the link between god and individual believer no longer requiring intermediaries.

Divine reflections
Some statues may appear to represent a straightforward pose of offering, but they more precisely depict acts of presenting the local deity with a secular image of his shrine or effigy. In return, the donor hoped for a benevolent response, not only from the god but also from human beings who gazed upon the monument. The appearance of deities as seen in monuments set up on the edge—or outside—the religious precinct may differ from the sacred statue in the tabernacle, very few of which have survived.


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Miniature tabernacle

Miniature tabernacle
© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

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