Details of the Templar compound on Temple Mount Jerusalem

What did Temple Mount look like during Templar times, so between about 1120 and 1187? Theoderich, who visited Jerusalem probably in 1169, describes the Templar buildings in great detail. 

"East of the Palace of Solomon (the present day Al-Aqsa mosque, TN) are houses, galleries for walking, gardens, places of assembly and rainwater reservoirs, with baths, storage rooms and granaries underneath them. The subterranean stables, erected by King Solomon, consisting of arches and vaults, can hold 10,000 horses and their grooms. West of the palace the Templars erected a large, tall new house whose very high gabled roof runs counter to local custom. Evidently Theoderich is contrasting it with the flat roofs common in the Levant. He goes on to relate that the Templars built there a new cloister that parallels the old one east of the palace – and several twelfth-century maps of Jerusalem do indeed show a claustrum Salomonis west of the Templum Solomoni. Theoderich adds that on one side of the new cloister the Templars are constructing a new church ofastonishing size and workmanship. Later he mentions that they built a southern forewall to protect their compound.

Theoderich’s description of the Templar building activities west of the palace is corroborated by the account of Saladin’s secretary ‘Imād al-Dīn al-Isfahānī, who dwells in some detail on the purification of the Aqsa Mosque during the week that followed the Muslim reconquest of Jerusalem in 1187. ‘Imād al-Dīn reports that to the west of the mosque the Templars had erected ‘a vast edifice and a high church’ – evidently Theoderich’s large, tall new house and his new church of astonishing size and workmanship. Saladin ordered that they be removed. The Templars, writes his secretary, built a wall in front (i.e., north) of the mosque’s prayer niche (mihrāb) and turned the area beyond the wall into a granary or, some said, into latrines; Saladin ordered that the wall be destroyed and the mihrāb unveiled. The partition walls that the Templars had erected between the mosque’s columns were demolished; mats of reed were replaced with precious carpets; and the sumptuous preacher’s pulpit prepared by Saladin’s predecessor Nūr al-Dīn was solemnly installed in the purified mosque. (...).

Thus the written sources enable us to envisage, west of the palace, a large building topped by a gabled roof, a cloister, and a high, richly decorated church; inside the palace – a church, a refectory, a chapter house, an infirmary, chambers created by partition walls linking the palace’s columns, and a granary or latrines near the southern wall; east of the palace – houses, galleries, gardens, places of assembly and rainwater reservoirs and, underneath them, baths, storage rooms, granaries and stables."

This blog quotes extensively, with minor edits from the paper "Vestiges of Templar presence in the Aqsa Mosque" by Benjamin Z. Kedar, from: The Templars and their Sources, Edited By Karl Borchardt, Karoline Döring, Philippe Josserand, Helen Nicholson (2017, Routledge). The illustration shows the Al-Aqsa mosque seen from outside the south-west corner of the Temple plateau or Haram al-Sharif. Picture by Berthold Werner, source Wikipedia. Public Domain

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