Capital topped a column that stood 41 feet high, forming part of the double colonnade that surrounded the Temple Mount plaza to provide shade for the pilgrims who visited the mount • Temple Mount Sifting Project work stops due to funding crisis.
The capital of a carefully-adorned column that stood on the Temple Mount in the time of the Second Temple has been discovered through the Temple Mount Sifting Project.
The capital, whose size indicates that the column had a circumference of 75 centimeters (30 inches) at its top, is a section of one column that formed part of the double colonnade that surrounded the Temple Mount plaza.
In his book “The War of the Jews,” Romano-Jewish historian Josephus describes the columns that surrounded the Temple Mount plaza: “All the cloisters were double, and the pillars belonging to them were 25 cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. … The natural magnificence and excellent polish and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters afforded a prospect that was very remarkable.”
Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, said that “this is a capital in the Doric style, one of the characteristics of the art in the time of the Hasmonean dynasty. This appears to be the capital of a column formed part of the eastern colonnade of the Temple Mount, which Josephus and even the New Testament called ‘Solomon’s Porch.’ A column like this is impressive testimony of the immensity of the structures on the Temple Mount in the Second Temple era, and fits in well with Josephus’ narrative, which describes what he saw with his own eyes.”
Barkay explained that a 25-cubit column would have stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) high.
“The columns were erected in two parallel rows, and were topped with cedar rafters that supported the roofing. One can imagine the pilgrims arriving at the Temple Mount for the three major festivals, amazed at the immense structure that appeared before them after they passed through the gates to the Temple Mount into the plaza that surrounded the Temple. The columns around the plaza provided shade for the thousands of visitors that would be on the mount at once,” Barkay said.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project recently came to a halt due to a lack of funds. The project has been under way for more than a decade, sifting through the rubble discarded by the Islamic Movement in a major dig in 1999. On Monday, a campaign to raise funds to continue the project launched on the Giveback website.