Medinet Madi

The temple of Medinet Madi was brought to light between 1935 and 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War, by Achille Vogliano.

Thanks to his extraordinary discoveries, he found the one and only Middle Kingdom temple preserved and known until now in Egypt, full of texts and sculptures, enclosed and preserved among the Ptolemaic and Roman extension works made to the south and north of the original temple.

The small temple was founded by Pharaoh Amenemhat III in the second millennium BC, together with the city of Gia, as part of the measures taken by the rulers of the Middle Kingdom to increase agricultural resources in the Fayum. The temple was consecrated to Renenutet, the cobra goddess, lady of the crops and barns and protector of the pharaoh, who was assimilated with the goddess Isis in the Late Period with the name of Isis-Thermutous.

The name of the goddess gave rise to the toponym Narmouthis, “The city of Renenutet”, used during the Greek-Roman period.

The cult of Sobek, the crocodile god, lord of the Fayum, was associated with the cobra Renenut, the “living Renenut of Gia”, as she was called in the hieroglyphic texts of Medinet Madi.

Amenemhat III and his successor Amenemhat IV are represented in beautiful reliefs on the walls of the temple, which includes a hypostyle hall with two columns and a transverse hall with three shrines.

During the Ptolemaic Dynasty, probably under Ptolemy Soter II, three courtyards, a vestibule and another temple adjacent to the north side were added. The whole complex is surrounded by a thick, high wall of unfired bricks with two large gates on the south and north sides. On the doorjambs of the entrance to the first court, Achille Vogliano found four Greek hymns composed by Isidore, a Greek-Egyptian, in honor of Isis-Thermutous and the founder of the temple, Amenemhat III. A long dromos, or avenue, lined with sphinxes, led to a kiosk after crossing the huge south gate of the temenos.

The area besides the north gate, the secondary one, was modified in the Roman Period, when a large colonnaded courtyard, or stoà (50m x 30m), was added, which is of great archaeological interest. The area of the temple, with its annexes, is undoubtedly the most significant part.

However, a lot remains to be explored at Medinet Madi, which preserves archaeological remains from the second millennium BC to the late Christian Period. The Coptic area was systematically explored in recent years and ten new paleo-Christian churches have been discovered. They have a basilica plan, some of of which are of imposing size, with many sculptures. The discoveries include some pages of a Coptic manuscript (6th century), ceramics and wood sculptures