Burial Locations of John the Baptist's Head

Several different locations claim to possess the severed head of John the Baptist.


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Nicephorus and Symeon Metaphrastes say that Herodias had it buried in the fortress of Machaerus (in accordance with Josephus).


Ibn al-Faqih relays the story that during the construction of the mosque, workers found a cave-chapel which had a box containing the head of St. John the Baptist, or Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā in Islam. Upon learning of that and examining it, al-Walid I ordered the head buried under a specific pillar in the mosque. It is also the current official place for the Catholic Church, Shrine of John's Head.


Some writers say that it was interred in Herod's palace (site, today known as the Kishle) at Jerusalem; there it was found during the reign of Constantine I, and thence secretly taken to Emesa where it was concealed, the place remaining unknown for years, until it was manifested by revelation in 453.


The basilica of San Silvestro in Capite is also famous for a relic, a fragment of a head purported to be that of Saint John the Baptist, kept in a chapel to the left of the entrance.


An ariel view of the Temple Mount.

Edgeller, Johnathan argues that the Templars were accused of idolatry and were suspected of worshiping either a figure known as Baphomet or a mummified severed head they recovered, amongst other artifacts, at their original headquarters on the Temple Mount that many scholars theorize might have been that of John the Baptist, among other things.


The initial impetus for the building of the cathedral came from the installation of the reputed head of John the Baptist on 17 December 1206. The head was part of the loot of the Fourth Crusade, which had been diverted from campaigning against the Turks to sacking of Constantinople, the great capital of the Byzantine Empire. A sumptuous reliquary was made to house the skull. Although it was later lost, a 19th-century replica still provides a focus for prayer and meditation in the North aisle.

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