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February 02, 2019 2 min read

Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem before its destruction by Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II after the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. The temple was constructed under Solomon, son of David, the third king of Israel. The temple was dedicated to Yahweh, and housed the Ark of the Covenant.

The current construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount dates to the early Islamic Umayyad period of rule in Palestine. The mosque was reconstructed and expanded by the Caliph ruler Abd al-Malik commencing c.690 along with the Dome of the Rock, using materials from the nearby destroyed Church of Our Lady. Abd al-Malik replaced the original primitive structure with a more sheltered structure enclosing the Qibla. The Qibla is the direction Muslims face when they pray and is usually contained in a wall niche.

Although the mosque's reconstruction was started by Abd al-Malik, his son al-Walid oversaw its completion. Between 713 and 714 frequent earthquakes hit Jerusalem and destroyed the eastern section of the mosque, which had to be rebuilt during al-Walid's rule. He had gold from the dome of the Rock minted and used this to purchase new material. When the work was finished, the project was far more than a mosque and larger than the original building. The entire complex became the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), with an adjoining bridge that spanned the length of the road and led directly into the mosque from a palace. The mosque continued to be plagued by earthquakes and continuously repaired by subsequent generations of Muslims.

When Jerusalem was captured by the Crusaders in 1099, the mosque became “Solomon's Temple”, due to it being built over the ruins of the original Temple of Solomon. The Dome of the Rock was named Templum Domini (Temple of God). The Dome of the Rock was turned into a Christian church and the al-Aqsa Mosque used as a royal palace and horse stable.

In 1119, Solomon’s Temple was transformed into the first holy headquarters of the Knights Templar. The mosque had its northern porch expanded, an apse (a semicircular recess) was added along with a dividing wall. A new cloister and church were also built at the site. The Templars constructed western and eastern annexes to the building. In 1187, Jerusalem was under siege and Saladin conquered and took the city, converting the temple back into a mosque.  

In modern times the western annex built by the Templars serves as the women's mosque and the eastern annex as an Islamic Museum. Due to religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation that still exists in Jerusalem, only limited archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted. No archaeological excavations have been allowed during modern times. Sadly, there are only a few pieces of archaeological evidence for the existence of the original Solomon's Temple.

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