The Byzantine Presence on the Temple Mount

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The article presents the Byzantine pilgrimage descriptions which show there were two Christian churches built on what is today called the traditional temple mount in Jerusalem, but which the Byzantines identified as "the Praetorium," or the Roman camp, Fort Antonia. These same descriptions identify the temple ruins with features consistent with the southeastern hill--Mount Zion, the waters of Shiloah (the Gihon Spring), Eudocia's 5th century city wall on the east, and a crypt or cave (probably in the Warren's Shaft water system).



The Byzantine Presence on the Temple Mountby Marilyn SamsOctober, 2014

The Byzantine Presence on the Temple MountIn an article in the Jerusalem Post, Lefkovits (2008, Nov. 17) reports on the Byzantine mosaic found under a pier of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in excavations carried out there by R. W. Hamilton, then Director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department. In the wake of recent earthquakes which had damaged the mosque, Hamilton seized the opportunity to explore its underground, with the permission of the Waqf. At some point between 1938 and 1942, he found a mosaic under the Umayyad level, and under it, a mikveh of the Second Temple period. His report of the excavation, entitled The Structural History of the Aqsa Mosque, failed to mention these important finds, and they were unknown until 2008, when Zachi Zweig, while researching at the Jerusalem Antiquities Authority, found them in a file related to the excavations. At a conference sponsored by Bar Ilan University, Dr. Rina Talgam from the Hebrew University dated the mosaic to the Byzantine era and it was assumed to be the remains of a church or monastery. Zweig commented that "The existence of a public building from the Byzantine period on the Temple Mount is very surprising in light of the fact that we do not have records of such constructions in historical texts (as cited in Lefkovits, 2008). As the co-creator of the Temple Mount Sift Project, Zweig knew first-hand all of the finds which had witnessed to himself and Gabriel Barkay the existence of a Byzantine presence on the temple mount, despite scholarly agreement on its lengthy abandonment (Hammer, 2011). Barkay has stated that The people writing the history of the Temple Mount definitely have to reassess their work on this particular era (Shragai, 2012, June 29). The purpose of this article is to reassess the history of this era to demonstrate there are records of such constructions in historical texts, which have been passed over, because scholars have been subject to what F. E. Peters described as envisioning backward (Peters, 1985, p. 14). This anti-historical practice involves the creation of narrative paradigms derived from an untested tradition and the subsequent interpretation of all related data according to those paradigms, sometimes resulting in an erroneous perspective. To recognize the Byzantine presence on the temple mount, scholars must disengage from envisioning backward with respect to the temple mount tradition and recognize the Byzantines identified the 36-acre walled edifice of their time quite differently from todays perception. Ancient accounts reveal they called it the Praetorium or the Hall of Pilate. There are descriptions of at least two churches having been built there--the Church of Our Blessed Lady (or the Blessed Mary) and the Church of Saint Sophia (or the Church of Holy Wisdom), both of which were on the pilgrimage tour circuit. This article will consider the details of these accounts to show the Byzantine differentiation between the site of the temple ruins and the site of the Praetorium, today known as the temple mount. The Byzantine tradition of identifying the temple mount as the Praetorium or Hall of Pilate presumably begins with the reference in John 19:13, which notes that Pilate judged Jesus in a place called lithostroton in Greek and gabbatha in Hebrew. Murphy-OConnor (1996) notes there were two praetoria at the time of Jesus and selects Herods palace as the most likely place for Jesuss judgment, rather than the Antonia Fortress (the Roman camp), the location of the other praetorium. He notes that lithostroton means a paved area, while the underlying Aramaic root of gabbatha means to be high, to protrude. Hence, he believes the reference to height is to Herods palace, because it occupied the highest position on the western hill. While the palace of Herod does seem the more logical of the two choices for several reasons, the Byzantine pilgrims apparently felt otherwise, as the descriptions will make apparent. Chronologically, the account which first mentions the Praetorium or the Hall of Pilate is that of the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333 A.D.): From there, [inside the wall of Sion] so that you may go out of the wall of Sion, as you go towards the gate of Neapolis, to the right side, below in the valley, are some walls, where was the house, or praetorium, of Pontius Pilate. Here the Lord was tried before his suffering. The most notable walls in the valley from this perspective would have been those of the temple mount. He does not mention any church in association with it and doesnt seem to have visited it; however, he did visit the temple ruins before he reached the western hill: There is there a crypt, in which Solomon used to torture demons. There is there the corner of a most high tower, where the Lord ascended, and he spoke to him who was tempting him, and the Lord stated to him: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, but him only shalt thou serve. And a great corner stone is there, of which it is said: The stone which the builders rejected, this is become the head of the corner. And under the pinnacle of the tower itself are many chambers where Solomon had the palace. There is even the chamber in which he sat and wrote the book of Wisdom. This chamber is actually covered with a single stone. And there are large cisterns for subterranean water and pools constructed with great labor. And on the temple mount itself, where the temple was which Solomon built, the blood of Zacharias on the marble pavement before the altar is poured there, you would say, even today. There are also visible the marks of the shoe nails of the soldiers who slew him, throughout the whole area, so that you would think they were made in wax. There are here two statues of Hadrian, and not far from the statues there is a bored-through stone, to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, and lament themselves with moans and tear their clothes, and thus depart. There is there the house of Hezekiah, King of Judah. After visiting these ruins, his next stop is Mount Sion (the one so-called to the south of the western hill):Also, going out of Jerusalem, so that you may go up Mount Sion, on the left side, and below in the valley, next to the wall, is a pool which is called Siloe. It has four porticoes, and there is another large pool outside it. This spring runs for six days and nights, but on the seventh day it is the Sabbath, and it does not run at all, either by day or by night. The Bordeaux Pilgrims point of departure from the temple ruins to reach his next goal of Mount Zion appears to be on the southeastern hill. This is ascertained from his viewpoint crossing over the lower Tyropoeon Valley, where, to his left (south), he notices the Pool of Siloam next to a wall. He then describes a spring, ostensibly feeding the pool of Siloe, which would be the Gihon Spring, located at the center of the southeastern hill. The features of the temple ruins include a crypt; chambers under a tower/pinnacle, including one covered by a single stone; a corner stone; and large cisterns for subterranean water and pools. These features are associated with, but described separately from the temple mount, and seem to be under the temple mount, which includes the features of a marble pavement in front of an altar; marks of the Roman soldiers shoe nails throughout the whole area; two statues of Hadrian, a bored-through stone which the Jews come to anoint and where they moan and lament; and the house of Hezekiah. Scholars have traditionally attributed these features to todays traditional temple mount and several corresponding descriptions apply, including the crypt, underground chambers, a tower, the corner stone, large cisterns and pools, and a bored-through stone. However, to avoid envisioning backward, other sources need to be compared, disclosing the Byzantines did not associate these features with the 36-acre walled edifice of their time. One of these sources comes from Eucherius (5th Century C.E.), the Bishop of Lyons, in his Letter to Faustus: The Temple, which was situated in the lower city near the eastern wall, was once a worlds wonder, but of its ruins there stands today only the pinnacle of one wall, and the rest are destroyed down to their foundations. A few water cisterns can be seen on the northern side of the city near the Temple. The Pool of Bethsaida is there, distinguished by its twin pools. One is usually filled with winter rains, while the other is filled with red-colored water. On the steep rocky side of Mount Sion which faces east, below the city walls and at the bottom of the hill, gushes forth the fountain of Siloam. It does not flow continuously, but only on certain days and at certain hours, and it flows with an intermittent stream toward the south. Beside the east wall of Jerusalem, which is also the wall of the Temple, is Gehenna, the Valley of Jehoshaphat. It runs from north to south, and a torrent runs through it whenever there has been rain to provide it with water. (as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 154) Interpreting the account of Eucherius initially presents problems with respect to his mention of the Pool of Bethsaida, whose traditional location is now near St. Annes, north of todays traditional temple mount. However, if we confine all of his descriptions to the lower city near the eastern wall, the Bethsaida Pool migrates to (1) the northern area of the southeastern hill, near the eastern wall built by Eudocia, around 450 C.E., or (2) interpreting there to mean the southeastern hill rather than the northern side of the city, the Bethsaida Pool could be the two pools of Siloam, the lower one of which must have had reddish waters, because the Muslims later called it Birkat al-Hamra (meaning red). In addition, the temple site of Eucherius is at Mount Zion (the actual one on the southeastern hill), below which the fountain of Siloam, with its karstic descriptors, ties the temple ruins site to the center of the southeastern hill. Two other features match those of the Bordeaux Pilgrim--a pinnacle and a few cisterns. The Valley of Gehenna is mentioned and erroneously refers to the Kidron Valley. Although the Bordeaux Pilgrim did not mention visiting the Praetorium, in about 350 C.E., Cyril of Jerusalem, in his famous catechetical lectures, speaks of the hall of Pilate, now laid waste by the power of Him who was then crucified (13:39). Cyrils comment probably refers to a structure or structures on the temple mount, possibly indicating, along with the Bordeaux Pilgrims account, that the site was not yet on the pilgrimage route or that some ruins had been maintained as a witness of Christs triumph over the cruelty inflicted on him. Etheria (Egeria), who visited Jerusalem in 380 C.E. and participated in the Veneration of the Cross ambulatories, omits any mention of the Praetorium when the passages from John 18:28-19:16 are read by the Lector. However, the Old Armenian Lectionary notes that some time later, these verses were read at the palace of the Judge, which appears to re-characterize the former ruins mentioned by Cyril and may refer to a new edifice or edifices constructed on the temple mount. According to the dates of the Lectionarys usage (419-439 C.E.), the Praetorium was part of the worship circuit (The Pilgrimage of Etheria, 1919; Conybeare, 1905). In 404 C.E., a mention of the Praetorium appears in Jeromes Letter 108, which refers to the pilgrim Paulas trip to Jerusalem. The letter says the Proconsul of Palestine sent his chamberlain on ahead to make the Pretorium ready for her (as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 152), indicating the temple mount then served as the Proconsuls official residence, as well as a site of Christian veneration. Empress Eudocia (c. 400- 460 C.E.) retired to Jerusalem shortly after 440 C.E., where she remained until her death. Among several churches attributed to her bounty is the Church of St. Sophia, first described by Theodosius (530 C.E.): From the house of Caiphas to the Pretorium of Pilate it is about 100 paces; the Church of St. Sophia [or the Holy Wisdom] is there. Beside it St. Jeremiah was cast into the pit [Jer.38:6]..The Pool of Siloam is a hundred paces from the pit where they cast the Prophet Jeremiah; the pool is inside the wall. (Theodosius, Topography of the Holy Land, 40-45, as cited in Peters, 1985, p.57; information in brackets is Peters). Theodosius describes the Church of St. Sophia at the Praetorium, Jeremiahs pit next to it, and the Pool of Siloam at one hundred paces distance. Subsequent descriptions will repeat these referents with more details. The most important of these is the account of Antoninus Martyr (a.k.a. the Piacenza Pilgrim), a traveler who visited the holy places in about 560-570 C.E., remarking the existence of a second church on the temple mount, named the Basilica of the Blessed Mary: At the foot of the mountain itself [Mount Hermon], there ascends a cloud from the river at the first hour after sunrise, and comes to Jerusalem over the basilica which is in Sion, and over the basilica of the Sepulchre of our Lord, and over the basilica of the Blessed Mary and St. Sophia, which was the Praetorium where our Lord was tried. (Wilson, 1896, pp. 8-9) The account of Antoninus conflates both churches with the Praetorium, probably because they were both enclosed within the walled temple mount area and seemed to him one entity. His statement is discussed by Charles Wilson in an 1896 introduction to the account: The notices of the holy places are interesting, especially those ofthe churches of the blessed Mary and St. Sophia, within the present Haram area. In ch. xxiii, these churches are alluded to as separate buildings, but in ch. ix they are mentioned as one super basilicum sanctae Mariae et sanctae Sophiae, quae fuit praetorium There are several interesting coincidences between the legends attaching to the rock of the Praetorium and those of the Sakhrah in the Dome of the Rock, to which I have drawn attention in a note to p. 19; and the subject is discussed more fully by Professor Sepp, in Die Felsenkuppel eine Justinianische Sophien kirche. It may be remarked that the only notice of the Temple is the allusion (ch xxiii) to the water running down from the ruins to Siloam. (Wilson, 1896, p. vii). Wilsons introduction brings up a key point for identifying the temple mount as the Byzantine Praetorium, by mentioning the rock of the Praetorium and its association in legends with the Sakrah (the rock under the Dome of the Rock). Further, Wilson remarks on the less important, less detailed allusion to the Temple, which Antoninus identifies only with water running down from the ruins to Siloam, a description noted below in its original context: From Sion, we came to the Basilica of the Blessed Mary, where is a large congregation of monks, and where are also hospices (for strangers, both) for men and women. There I was received as a pilgrim; there were countless tables and more than three thousand beds for sick persons. We prayed in the Praetorium where the Lord was tried, which is now the Basilica of St. Sophia. In front of the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, under the street, water runs down to the fountain of Siloam. Near the porch of Solomon, in the church itself, is the seat upon which Pilate sat when he tried our Lord. There also is a square stone, which used to stand in the midst of the Praetorium, upon which the accused was placed during his trial, that he might be heard and seen by all the people. Upon it our Lord was placed when He was tried by Pilate, and there the marks of His feet still remain. (Wilson, 1896, pp. 19-20) Antoninus identifies the Basilica of the Blessed Mary as a structure accommodating a very large congregation of monks, offering hospice quarters for men and women, and providing a hospital with 3,000 beds for sick persons. This church contrasts with the Basilica of St. Sophia, where stands a square stone with Pilates seat upon it, formerly occupying the middle of the Praetorium, and which serves mostly as a place of prayer, compared to the utilitarian aspects of the Basilica of the Blessed Mary. The square stone is purported to be the place of the Lords trial, still bearing the imprints of his feet. This designation implies the Byzantine pilgrims associated gabbatha with the height of the Sakrah, rather than that of Herods palace. After the Muslims had commandeered the temple mount, Jesuss footprints on the rock of the Praetorium transmuted into the footprints of Mohammad. Antoninus considers the entire temple mount to be the Praetorium and the location of St. Sophia in the middle of the Praetorium closely approximates the site of the Dome of the Rock. The Porch of Solomon figures as a frequent feature associated with the Praetorium and the Church of St. Sophia, but its exact identity remains elusive. The note on p. 19 mentioned by Wilson provides a continuing commentary on the Antoninus account: This description of the church of St. Sophia, on the site of the Praetorium, in close connection with the Mary Church of Justinian and the Temple, is curious and interesting; especially on account of the resemblance of some of the traditions to those attached to the Dome of the Rock. Thus, the Sakhrah represents the square stone of the Praetorium; the footprints of Mahomet take the place of those of Christ, and the many virtues of the stone are still believed in by the Moslem pilgrims who purchase the dust of the Sakhrah, as a specific against all diseases. The Porch of Solomon seems to have become the Tomb of Solomon, near the northern door; and the Stone of Paradise, connected with the coming of Mohomet to judge the faithful; the Mahkamat en Neby Daud, Tribunal of the Prophet David (Dome of the Chain); and the name Mawazin, given to the screen on the platform, may represent some old tradition that the Praetorium occupied the ground now covered by the Dome of the Rock. Sepp, indeed identifies the Church of St. Sophia with the last-named building(ch. vii.) also mentions that the Church of St.Sophia occupied the site of the Praetorium. The footprint of Jesus is now shown in the Al Aksa Mosque on a stone which is supposed by some writers to have been taken from the Praetorium. (Wilson, 1896, p. 20; italics mine) Wilson erroneously identifies the Basilica of the Blessed Mary with the Nea Church of Justinian, or new church built in honor of the Virgin. Its remains in the Jewish quarter continued undiscovered until after the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. However, his comments affirm the traditions associating the Sakrah with the Church of St. Sophia and chronicle some of the mutations of identification which followed the Muslim occupation of the temple mount. Antoninus provides no other mention of the temple ruins, other than in front of them, under the street, there are waters that run down to the fountain Siloam. This description is given more clarity, however, when he leaves the Praetorium and refers to this area of the southeastern hill again: Thence we came to an arch, where was the ancient gate of the city. At that place is the putrid water into which the prophet Jeremias was sent. Descending from that arch down to the fountain of Siloam by many steps, we saw the round church, from beneath which Siloe rises. This church has two baths made by the hands of man, out of marble; between the two baths runs a partition; in the one men, and in the other women, bathe for a blessing. In these waters many cures are effected, and even lepers are cleansed. Before the atrium of the church is a large pool formed by the hands of man, in which the people bathe continually; for at certain hours the fountain of its own accord pours forth much water, which runs down through the Valley of Gethsemane, which is also called Josaphat, as far as Jordan, and enters the Jordan at the place where it runs into the Salt Sea below Sodom and Gomorrha.The Fountain of Siloa is at the present day within the walls of the city; because the Empress Eudocia herself added these walls to the city, and herself built the basilica and tomb of Saint Stephen. Hence, Antoninus equates the waters at the Church of Siloam, built by Eudocia, with curative effects, just like the Pool of Bethsaida. The associated karstic action of the Gihon Spring is described. The ancient gate of the city may have been the Dung Gate and the many steps down to the Church at Siloam, the stepped Tyropoeon street under which the waters near the temple ruins ran down past the fountain of Siloam. These steps and the drainage channel underneath them have been excavated by Reich and Shukron, and a large cistern at the southwestern corner of the temple mount, which has also been uncovered in association with the drainage channel, may be a possible candidate for Jeremiahs pit (Reich, 2011, Massive First Temple-Period Reservoir, 2012) . An additional source which describes the Church of Saint Sophia with reference to the Praetorium is the Breviarius of Jerusalem, an anonymous tour guide created in the late fifth or early sixth centuries, which states the following: 5. From there, you go to the House of Pilate, where he handed the Lord over to the Jews for scourging. There is a basilica there, and small chamber, where they stripped him bare and scourged him. It is called [the Church of] Holy Wisdom. 6. From there, you go to the temple built by Solomon, of which nothing remains but a crypt. From there you go to that pinnacle, upon which Satan placed the Lord. As you descend to Siloam, there is the pit where they placed blessed Jeremiah. (Whalen, 2011, p. 41) The pilgrim who penned The Breviarius cites the same features as the previously quoted pilgrims, and the translation substitutes the House of Pilate for the Praetorium and The Church of Holy Wisdom for the Church of St. Sophia. He also mentions a small chamber, not previously alluded to by earlier pilgrims, which may refer to the later-named Well of Souls, under the Sakrah. His description of the temple ruins is similar to that of the Bordeaux Pilgrim in that it divides the ruins of the temple into two areas, one where a crypt is located (probably one of the caves in the Warrens Shaft area) and the other where a pinnacle is located (on the ridge). The descent to Siloam is again associated with the temple ruins, but Jeremiahs pit seems located further south, in between the ruins and the pools of Siloam. Accounts subsequent to the Muslim conquest also illuminate the former presence of the two churches on the temple mount. A description of the Omar al-Khattab tradition explains that he built a sanctuary at the southern end of the temple mount, soon after conquering Jerusalem in 638 C.E. This location is attested to by an account in the Muthir al-Ghiram, compiled seven hundred years after the event, in the 14th century: It is related as coming from Shadad ibn Aws, who accompanied Umar when he entered the Noble Sanctuary of the Holy City on the day when God caused it to be reduced by capitulation, that Umar entered by the Gate of Muhammad, crawling on his hands and his knees, he and all those who were with him, until he came up to the court of the Sanctuary. Then looking around to the right and the left and glorifying God, he said: By God, in whose hand is my soul, this must be the sanctuary of David of which the Apostle spoke to us when he said I was conducted there in the Night Journey. Then Umar advancing to the front (or southern) part of the Haram area and to the western part thereof, said: Let us make this the place for the sanctuary [masjid]. (as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 188). The later Byzantine pilgrims referred to the masjid of Omar as a house of prayer for the Saracens. The earliest pilgrimage account alluding to this forerunner of the Al-Aqsa mosque is mentioned by Arculf, in 680 C.E.: In that famous place where the Temple once stood, near the (city) wall, on the east, the Saracens now frequent an oblong house of prayer, which they pieced together with upright planks and large beams over some ruined remains. It is said that building can hold three thousand people. (Arculf I, 1, as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 196; italics mine) This telling account refers to ruins on the southern end of the temple mount upon which the Saracens erected a house of prayer. We can logically identify these ruins as those of the Basilica of the Blessed Mary mentioned by Antoninus as occupying the Praetorium. Notably, the Saracens house of prayer admits 3,000 people, the same number of hospital beds in the Basilica of the Blessed Mary. An additional account, echoing that of Arculf, comes from the Christian Venerable Bede (672-735 C.E..), one of the early chroniclers after the Muslim conquest, who wrote a description with the usual topographical markers, except for one: The site of the city Jerusalem, circling around in almost a circle, stands out by the not small extent of its walls, by which also it holds itself below the formerly neighboring Mount Sion, which, located to the south, rises above the city like before an arc. And in the lower part of the city, where the Temple, located in the vicinity of the wall from the east, had been connected to the city itself by an access bridge crossing over the middle, now the Saracens frequent there for prayer a squared house, crudely constructed with raised planks and great beams over certain remains of ruins, which is thought to hold three thousand men. Few cisterns are found there that use water. In the vicinity of the Temple is the Bethsaida pool, it appears distinguished by a double pool, the one of which is mostly filled by the winter rains, the other is discolored with reddish waters. Away from there, by the front of mount Sion, which faces the eastern region with steep rock, and inside the walls, in the roots of the hill, the Siloam spring bursts forth, which in fact flows in the south inter- mittently with gusts of waters, that is, not with flowing waters, but in certain hours of the day it erupts, and through vaults and caves in ground of the hardest rock, it usually comes with a great sound. (trans. Arnold vander Nat, 2001) The Venerable Bede also provides contrasting descriptions for the temple mount (where the Saracens frequent a prayer house) and the Temple ruins, which are distinguished by the features of being in the lower part of the city, located near the citys east wall, near a double pool (one of which has reddish waters) and near the front of mount Zion, where the Siloam spring bursts forth. His description of a former access bridge crossing over the middle which connected the city and temple shows part of his description comes from Josephus and is particularly notable, because it is located in the lower part of the city, referring to the southeastern hill. The Venerable Bede duplicates the account of Arculf in mentioning the Saracens built a house of prayer on ruins. Another, much later account identifies the ruins spoken of by Arculf and the Venerable Bede as those of the Church of our Blessed Lady, first named by Antoninus. In 1496 C.E., Arnold von Harff, a Christian visitor to Jerusalem, used bribes and a disguise to attain a dangerous entrance to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque: This Temple of Solomon is a fine round and lofty church roofed with lead. Formerly the Jews held this tabernacle or chapel in great honor and reverence and regarded it as a holy place, for on it stood the Ark of God.Beneath this tabernacle is a small piece of rock enclosed with an iron railing, called the Holy Rock, on which many wonders and miracles of God have been performed We went from this Temple eastwards, some twenty-six paces into a very fine mosque or church called the Porch of Solomon [the Aqsa Mosque]. When the Christians possessed Jerusalem it was called the Church of Our Blessed Lady, where for a long time she went to school. This church, the Porch of Solomon, is much longer than the Temple of Solomon.Since the heathen have this church in great reverence, no Christian or Jew may approach it. (as cited in Peters, 1985, pp. 406-407; information in brackets is Peters; italics mine) Hence, the pilgrim accounts point to the Byzantine mosaic found by R. W. Hamilton as belonging to the Church of Our Blessed Lady or the Church of the Blessed Mary, a Byzantine church which occupied the Praetorium at the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Concerning the fate of the Church of St. Sophia, two descriptions provide the details of its demise. The first is an explanatory citation which comes from another Omar tradition contained in the Muthir al-Ghiram, where Umar asks Kab: Where do you think we should put the place of prayer for Muslims in this Holy Sanctuary? Kab answered: In the further (northern) part of it, near the Gate of the Tribes. But Umar said: No, since the fore part of the sanctuary belongs to us. (Le Strange, 1890, pp. 139-143, as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 189). This tradition hints that Omar distrusted Kab (a Jewish convert to Islam) and rejected the northern part of the temple mount as a location for his house of prayer, because it belonged to someone else. This circumstance would be consistent with the Church of St. Sophia still occupying the site of the Dome of the Rock at the beginning of the Umayyad conquest. However, when Caliph Abd al-Malik rose to leadership, he sought to demonstrate the ascendancy of Islam over Christianity in Jerusalem and he ordered the construction of the Dome of the Rock to compete with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the opposite hill. Gil (1997) cites a passage originally found in the Annals (Vol. II) of Said ibn Bitriq (Eutychius, Patriarch of Alexandria, 876-940 C.E.), which was later shortened by Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 C.E.) in the Kitab al-Ibar (Vol. III) to state: He [Caliph Abd al-Malik] built the Dome of the Rock on the site of a Christian Church which he destroyed (as cited in Gil, p. 92). Hence, Eutychius and Khaldun are two more sources stating a Christian church had been built over the rock of the Praetorium (the Sakrah), which church can only be the Church of Saint Sophia, and al-Malik destroyed it to make way for the Dome of the Rock, completed in 692 C.E. Eutychius also provides an Omar account in which he clarifies the Christian identification of the temple mount as the Praetorium, which differed from the site of the former temple and its ruins: Then Umar said to him [Sophronius]: You owe me a rightful debt. Give me a place in which I might build a sanctuary [masjid]. The patriarch said to him: I will give to the Commander of the Faithful a place to build a sanctuary where the kings of Rum were unable to build. It is the rock where God spoke to Jacob and which Jacob called the Gate of Heaven and the Israelites the Holy of Holies. It is in the center of the world and was a Temple for the Israelites, who held it in great veneration and wherever they were they turned their faces toward it during prayer. But on this condition, that you promise in a written document that no other sanctuary will be built inside Jerusalem. Therefore Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote him the document on this matter and handed it over to him. They were Romans when they embraced the Christian religion, and Helena, the mother of Constantine, built the churches of Jerusalem. The place of the rock and the area around it were deserted ruins and they [the Romans] poured dirt over the rock so that great was the filth above it. The Byzantines [Rum], however, neglected it because Christ our Lord said in his Holy Gospel Not a stone will be left upon a stone which will not be ruined and devastated. For this reason the Christians left it as a ruin and did not build a church over it. So Sophronius took Umar ibn al-Khattab by the hand and stood him over the filth. Umar, taking hold of his cloak filled it with dirt and threw it into the Valley of Gehenna. When the Muslims saw Umar ibn al-Khattab carrying dirt with his own hands, they all immediately began carrying dirt in their cloaks and shields and what have you until the whole place was cleansed and the rock was revealed. Then they all said: Let us build a sanctuary and let us place the stone at its heart. No, Umar responded. We will build a sanctuary and place the stone at the end of the sanctuary. Therefore, Umar built a sanctuary and put the stone at the end of it. (Baldi, 1955, pp. 447-448, as cited in Peters, 1985, p. 190; italics mine). Since Eutychius says of the deserted temple ruins at the time of Omar that (1) the kings of Rum (the Byzantine kings) had been unable to build there, (2) the Romans had covered them with dirt, and (3) the Christians had not built a church over them, he cannot simultaneously believe the Dome of the Rock occupied the site of the former temple ruins. Instead, Eutychius associates the temple ruins with a rock covered in filth, near the Valley of Gehenna (the Kidron in the Byzantine era). In addition, the rock covered in filth was portable, so it could not have referred to the Sakrah. The filth of the site matches Jeromes late fourth century description of the temple location as a refuse dump (Commentary on Isaiah 64:11). Concomitantly, the results of several archaeological excavations on the southeastern hill affirm that parts of it served as a garbage disposal area (Reich, 2011). Most important, the kings (queens) of Rum had not built a church at the center of the southeastern hill, which they considered the site of the Jewish temple, but they had built one at the Dome of the Rock. Although the identity of the 36-acre walled edifice changed from being the Praetorium to the Haram esh-Sharif when the Muslims took over, then to the temple mount under the Crusaders, then back to the Haram, a Christian monk living in Jerusalem in 1283 C.E. agreed with the former Byzantine identity for the temple mount. An educated German Dominican monk named Burchard (of Mount Sion), a reader of Josephus, said the following: Mount Moriah, where the Lords Temple and the kings palace were built, was somewhat higher than the city, as is clearly seen from the position of the Temple and its courts as described by Josephus, since each of them is described in his histories. But all of these places are now utterly levelled, and are almost lower than any other part of the city, for the mount was pulled down by the Romans and cast into the brook Kedron, together with the ruins of the Temple and its courts, as may be clearly seen at this day. The Temple is square, and is more than a bowshot long and wide. The Temple which is now built on it almost touches the city wall, which the true and ancient Temple did not, because there were courts between it and the wall; but now it is not more than about a hundred feet away from the wall and the brook Kedron. The Valley of Jehoshaphat also enclosed the city, passing along its east side at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Though this valley is pretty deep, yet it is much filled up; for the Romans, as Josephus tells us, when they were besieging the city on that side, cut down the olives and other trees, made mounds of them and filled up the valley with the mounds. Moreover, after the city had been taken, Aelius Adrianus caused all the ruins of the courts and the Temple to be cast into the brook Kedron, and Mount Moriah to be levelled, so that the place might not again be fortified, and he had the city sown with salt.(Burchard of Mount Sion, as cited in Peters, 1985, pp. 450-451) Burchard notes the disparity between the city of Josephus and the city he occupies, but he confuses the actions of Simon the Hasmonean and Hadrian with those of the Romans under Titus. He wonders at the identity of the so-called temple (apparently the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which had been leveled and cast into the Kedron according to Josephus, yet is supposedly still standing and much too close to the eastern wall to permit the courts described by Josephus. In the Burchard translation published by the Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, a stunning passage appears as follows: The venerable Lord and Father James of Vitry, Patriarch of Jerusalem, in his book 2 on the conquest of the Holy Land, says, among other matters: This often-mentioned and often-to-be-mentioned city stands altogether on a lofty mountain; it is enclosed on all sides by a strong wall and is neither straitened by excess of smallness nor is it likely to offend by over-greatness. It measures four bow-shots across from wall to wall, and has also on the west side a fortress of squared stones cemented together unbreakably with mortar and lead, which on one side serves as a wall to the city, and is called the Tower of David. This is what some call Antonys Tower and has on its south side Mount Sion, whereon David built him a house, and where also he is buried, together with the other kings. He called it the City of David. (Burchard of Sion, trans. Aubrey Stewart; italics mine). Burchard quotes Jacques de Vitry (c. 1180-1240 C.E.) from his Historia Hiersolymitana, but the reference to Antonys tower is his own insertion. Burchard, therefore, expresses the possibility that the Tower of David, or the temple mount, is the Antonia Fortress, the same identity held by the Byzantines. Burchard also correctly identifies the Mount Zion of David as the southeastern hill. This analysis of ancient sources, particularly from the Byzantine period, indicates the Byzantine pilgrims and some later historians called the Roman camp the Praetorium, the same edifice which eyewitness Eleazar, in Josephus, War VII, 8, 376 (Whiston version) described as the only monument preserved after the siege of Titus. The Byzantines associated that monument with the site where Christ had been tried by Pilate and where his footprints had been memorialized on the rock of the Praetorium. The Byzantine tour circuit included the Church of St. Sophia and the Church of the Blessed Mary, both occupying the Praetorium at the sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. On the other hand, the Byzantines described the temple ruins site with features related to the southeastern hill, especially Eudocias east wall of the city, Mount Zion, and the fountain of Siloam, from where waters ran down to the pool of Siloam. ReferencesBurchard of Sion. (n.d./ 1897). (Trans. A. Stewart) In Palestine Pilgrims Text Society (Vol. 12).London, Palestine Pilgrims Text Society. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from, F. C. (1905). Rituale Armenorum. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 507-527. Retrieved from the Bombaxo website: of Jerusalem. (c. 350 C.E.). Catechetical Lectures. Retrieved September 11, 2014 fromChristian Classics Ethereal Library website: t /npnf207.ii.xvii.html Etheria. (n.d./1919). The Pilgrimage of Etheria. (Trans. and Eds. M. L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe. London, UK: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. RetrievedAugust 28, 2014 from Christian Classics Ethereal Library website: http://www.ccel .org/m/mcclure/etheria/etheria.htmGil, M. (1997). A History of Palestine, 634-1099. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UniversityPress. Hammer, J. (2011). What Is Beneath the Temple Mount? Retrieved January 1, 2013, website: F. (1999). The new complete works of Josephus (Trans. W. Whiston). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. Murphy-OConnor, J. (1996). The geography of faith. Bible Review, 12(6), 32-41, 52-53. Levkovits, E. (2008, Nov. 17). Was the Aqsa Mosque built over the remains of a ByzantineChurch? Retrieved August 1, 2014, from Jerusalem Post website: http://www First Temple-period reservoir discovered under Western Wall. (2012, Sept.). Retrieved September 19, 2014, from Jewish Virtual Library website:, F. E. (1985). Jerusalem: The Holy City in the eyes of chroniclers, visitors, pilgrims, andprophets from the days of Abraham to the beginnings of modern times. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press.Reich, R. (2011). Excavating the City of David where Jerusalems history began. Jerusalem:Israel Exploration Society.Shragai, N. (2012, June 29). Second Temple-era mikveh discovered under Al-Aqsa mosque.Retrieved August 18, 2014, from Israel Hayom website: Bordeaux Pilgrim. (n.d. /2001). Itinerary of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux (A. vander Nat, Trans.). Retrieved from Early Accounts of the Temple of Jerusalem website: /~avande1/jerusalem/sources/bordeauxJerus.htmThe Breviary of Jerusalem. (6th Century A.D.). (Trans. B.E. Whalen). In Pilgrimage inthe Middle Ages, A Reader. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. The Venerable Bede. (n.d./2001). De Loctis Sanctis. (Trans. A. vander Nat). Retrieved July 8,2013, from Loyola University Chicago website: /jerusalem/sources/bede.htmWilson, C.W.W. (1896). Of the Holy Places visited by Antoninus Martyr. (Trans. A. Stewart).London: Palestine Pilgrims Text Society. Retrieved June 14, 2013, from


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