Temple Mount

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The Temple Mount [see N1] refers to the trapezium shaped platform around a hill generally identified with the Mount Moriah, in Jerusalem. It is the site where historically a number of structures belonging to at least three different religions [see N2] (Jewish, Roman and Islam) have stood.

Overview

An ariel view of the Temple Mount, with al-Aqsa to the left, Dome of Rock in the center. Bab al-Rahmah Cemetery can be seen along the eastern wall of the Haram al-Sharif. The present site is a flat plaza surrounded by retaining walls (including the Western Wall) which was built during the reign of Herod the Great for an expansion of the temple. The plaza is dominated by three monumental structures from the early Umayyad period: the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, as well as four minarets.

According to Jewish tradition and scripture, the First Temple was built by King Solomon on the site. Among Muslims, the Mount is the site of one of the three Sacred Mosques, the holiest sites in Islam. The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply downward from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, its peak reaches a height of 740 meters (2,428 ft) above sea level.

An ariel view of the Temple Mount.

circa 1500-1700 CE

Temple Mount during Ottoman era

David Robert's impression of life in Jerusalem during Ottoman era (circa 1840 CE), with Dome of Rock in background. The Temple Mount has historical and religious significance for all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has particular religious significance for Judaism and Islam, and the competing claims of these faith communities has made it one of the most contested religious sites in the world. The historic city remained under Ottoman control for about 400 years, from 1500-1900 CE.

Brief History

circa 950 BCE

Arauna’s Threshing Floor
Bible recounts that King David (Prophet Dawood in Islam) purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite, and the tradition locates it as being on this mount. Araunah was a Jebusite mentioned in the Second Book of Samuel, who owned the threshing floor on Mount Moriah.

The Bible narrates how David united the twelve Israelite tribes, conquered Jerusalem and brought the Israelites' central artifact, the Ark of the Covenant, into the city. When a great plague struck Israel, a destroying angel appeared on Araunah's threshing floor. The prophet Gad then suggested the area to David as a fitting place for the erection of an altar to Yawheh. David bought the property from Araunah, for fifty pieces of silver, and erected the altar. God answered his prayers and stopped the plague. David subsequently allocated the site for a future temple to replace the Tabernacle and house the Ark of the Covenant; God forbade him from building it, however, because he had "shed much blood".

circa 900 BCE

Construction of the First Temple
The First Temple was constructed under David's son king Solomon, who became an ambitious builder of public works in ancient Israel: According to Jewish tradition the First Temple was built here by King Solomon the son of King David in 957 BCE, which was later destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

circa 516 BCE

Second Jewish Temple
The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and later extensively renovated and expanded by the Arab king of Israel, Herod the Great. This construction was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

circa 140 CE

Roman Temple
In the Roman period, Aelia Capitolina, during the reign of emperor Hadrian Jerusalem was extensively rebuilt as a Roman city. A temple to Jupiter was erected overlapping the site of the former second Jewish temple, the Temple Mount. Though the intention of Hadrian was to present the new city as a gesture of goodwill towards the Jewish people. However, his decision to erect a colossal statue of himself in front of the Temple of Jupiter, along with the presence of a massive statue of Jupiter within the temple, resulted in two "graven images" on the Temple Mount. These depictions were regarded as idolatrous by the Jewish population.

However, under the rule of Emperor Constantine I, there was a notable push to establish Christianity as the dominant religion within Roman society, surpassing the prominence of pagan cults. As a result, one significant outcome was the immediate demolition of Hadrian's Temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. This action was carried out following the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE, as ordered by Emperor Constantine.

Notable Structures

circa 690 CE

Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque

al-Aqṣā Mosque
Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Originally built by order of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid (reigned 705–15 CE), al-Aqsa stands on what the Crusaders thought to be the site of the First Temple and what others believe was a marketplace on the edge of the Temple. Located on the southern side of the Haram al-Sharif, it is the 3rd most holiest site in Islam. Originally built in circa 700 CE, it is named after the Muslim's account of the night travel of prophet Muhammad, who according to Islamic tradition was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem.

circa 690 CE

Northeast exposure of al-Aqsa Mosque

Dome of the Rock
Built in the last decade of the seventh century the Dome of the Rock is the most iconic structure on the Haram al-Sharif mount. The rock over which the shrine was built is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven from the site. In Jewish tradition it is here that Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Dome of the Chain is also partially visible to the right. The large golden dome and an octagon structure, was built by the Umayyad Khalif Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 CE and named it after Omar.

circa 100 CE

Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall is a section of Western Wall and is the holiest site in Judaism. Wailing Wall and the Western Wall plaza as seen from Moroccans' Gate access tunnel. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. For Muslims, it is the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his steed, al-Buraq, on his night journey to Jerusalem.

circa 1336 CE

Cradle of Jesus
The tradition of the Cradle of Jesus (مهد عيسى) refers to a small, recessed marble alcove found within a chamber known as the Chamber of Virgin Mary or Oratory of Mary, positioned in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount. It is believed to be the place where Miriam laid Jesus before or after presenting him in the Temple at the age of 40 days. This cradle is situated in the el-Marwani Musallah, also recognized as Solomon's Stables. Another tradition suggests that beneath this area lies a crypt where the venerated wooden cradle of Jesus is preserved.

Archaeological Remains From Earlier Structures

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has a rich history with various structures built and rebuilt over the centuries. Due to the sensitive nature of the site and the challenges associated with archaeological excavations, uncovering and studying the architectural remains of earlier structures has been limited. However, there have been some archaeological findings and historical accounts that shed light on earlier structures from the First and Second Jewish Temples, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader and Islamic Periods.

Notes

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See Also

Points of Interest

Burials

Grave of Qadir al-Husseini · Grave of Musa Kazim · Grave of Emir Mohamed Ali · Grave of King Hussein

Mehrabs

Mihrab Daood · Mihrab Zakariyya · Mehrab e Suleiman

Tunnels

References

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