This beautiful and remarkably well-preserved monument is the largest free-standing temple in Lower Nubia. It was built during the reign of Augustus (30 BC–14 AD), the first Roman emperor. Primarily dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis, the gods Isis and her husband Osiris were worshipped here too.
The temple is standard in its plan. A monumental gateway called a pylon leads into an open-air forecourt followed by a columned hall, called a hypostyle hall. Two transversal chambers lie beyond which served as halls for offerings.
At the far end of the temple is the sanctuary, where the cult image of the god was kept. A partly rock-cut chapel to the Nubian god Dedwen lies to the south-west, and a small chapel, likely built by Ptolemy IX in the 2nd century BC, is located to the north-east.
Multiple cultures have left their mark on the temple of Kalabsha, from its dedication to a Nubian god to its inscriptions in Meroitic and Greek. The slender columns and their wide spacing hint at influence from Graeco-Roman tradition. There are several crosses carved onto its walls, signaling the beginning of Christianity in the region when the sanctuary was used as a church.
From 1962 to 1963, this temple, like many others in Nubia, was relocated from its original site on Kalabsha Island to New Kalabsha Island in order to save it from the rising waters of the Nile in the aftermath of the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Because of their immense historical significance, the Egyptian monuments in Nubia from Abu Simbel to Philae, including the monuments standing today on New Kalabsha, were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.