The stables of King Solomon at Jerusalem

"They have under their palace stables for their horses built by King Solomon himself in the old days and connected to their palace, a wondrous and intricate building resting on pillars and endless arches and vaults. 

These stables, we say and think we know, can accommodate ten thousand horses and their attendants. No one can shoot an arrow from one side of the building to the other, either lengthwise or breadthwise, with one shot from a Balearic arch."

The German monk Theodorich visited the Holy Land in 1172 and also paid a visit to the Templar complex in Jerusalem, writing his findings in the work 'Libellus de locis sanctis'. Indeed, some 12.5 metres below the al Aqsa Mosque, where the Templars had their headquarters until 1187, sits a large vaulted space that the Crusaders knew as 'the Stables of Solomon'. The space consists of 12 vaulted galleries, 88 pillars and is about 500 m² in size. 

The structure, however, had not been built by King Solomon, who's hypothesized dates of reign are from 970–931 BCE. It was built in the time of King Herod who ruled from 37 to 4 BC as an extension of the Temple Mount. It served mainly to support the terrace and was hardly used until the arrival of the Templars who, as Theodorich said, turned it into stables. Today, the pillars still contain the steel rings to which the Temple knights tied their horses. 

In 1996, the Waqf, the Islamic organisation responsible for managing Muslim heritage on the Temple Mount, decided to convert this space into a second mosque. A stairwell was dug to access the underground space smoothly via the Al Aqsa Mosque. To improve access from outside, part of the ground was excavated. All this apparently without permission from the authorities and without supervision from archaeologists. About 400 trucks of soil were removed and dumped in the Kidron valley, between the city and the Mount of Olives. 

Some archaeology students went on site and soon noticed that the soil was rich in artefacts. After numerous bureaucratic and legal hassles, they managed to set up the 'Temple Mount Sifting Project', in which students, interested parties and even tourists, accompanied by archaeologists, sift the ground in search of artefacts. Hundreds of objects have already been unearthed that can be directly linked to the Templars such as armour plates, arrowheads and large quantities of coins. The project is still ongoing.

This blog is an English translation of a post in Dutch with the same title on Facebook of March 23, 2022, with some minor alterations. The illustration shows "Solomon's Stables in the 19th century, source Wikimedia, This image was taken from Flickr's The Commons.

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