|Temple of Philae|
The Philae Temple we visited is not in its original location. Philae Island was submerged by the High Dam and the temple was moved in the 70's, stone by stone to a Aglikia island.
After we bought our ticket, we had to arrange for a boat to take us across to the temple. Martin and I almost gave up visiting the temple when we were stuck at the mercy of the touts at the dock. They were relentless and wanted an exorbitant amount of money for the ten minutes crossing. But I am glad we could finally negotiate a more or less fair deal and get on with our visit.
As it turned out, this was a very important temple for me, as I could recognize symbols and stories I've heard about the Virgin Mary since childhood. The temple walls were covered with scenes resembling the “Madonna and Child” I have seen in museums around the world, specially Europe. This temple is also important, because it was the last pagan temple in ancient Egypt.
With the Roman invasion and later the Theodosian decree calling for all pagan churches to be closed around 380 AD, Philae was the last pagan temple to officially close in the 6th century AD by the Byzantine emperor Justinian (527-565 AD). Then, it was converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary until it was closed by Muslim invaders in the 7th century.
This temple is dedicated to the god Isis, who found the heart of Osiris on Philae Island. Together with Osiris, her husband and brother, and her son Horus, this trinity is associated with a well kneaded story of life after death, resurrection and a virgin mother in ancient Egypt from the early days of paganism. When the winds shifted to Christianity, the new faith borrowed not only the physical temples, but also the images and stories that went along with them. (More on the full story of Osiris, Isis and Horus on the “Horus Temple” post.)
The adoration of Isis seemed to have been restored by the Virgin Mary in Christianity. Her image standing on the crescent moon and scenes feeding infant Horus, seems to have clearly been adopted by the the new faith. The "Black Virgins," reverenced in certain French cathedrals are believed to be basalt figures of Isis.
She is "the woman clothed with the sun" the "Immaculate Lady," "Queen of Heaven," "Illustrious Isis, most powerful, merciful and just." These were titles transferred entirely or with slight changes to the Virgin-Mary.
I must say I was surprised to see scenes of Isis feeding infant Horus and finding so much familiarity in it from my upbringing as a Christian. After visiting other temples, the connection between myths and legends between paganism and Christianity and even Hinduism, was even clearer.