Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

Topographical visit to Temple Mount
and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park


5 March 2016 STS- Jerusalem
Jude Fernando, SDB

On 3rd of March 2016, the 1st year students of STS had their Topographical Visit tothe Temple Mount and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.We were given a detailed introduction and history of the site by Rev. Dr. Pol Vonck,M.Afr. Chief Museum Director of the Missionaries of Africa.

We began our voyage to the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock is located. The Dome of the Rock was initially completed in 691 AD by the fifth Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik. It is considered the third holiest place in Islam after the Ka'ba at Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and is the second most important place of pilgrimage. Moreover, it is built over the highest part of Mount Moriah where Jews believe Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven from the site. The Dome’s structure is rooted in Byzantine-Syrian architectural style and decorated with marble, mosaics, and metal plaques.The Christians in the Middle Agesbelieved the Dome of the Rock to be the Temple of Solomon. When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 theysubsequently utilized the Dome of the Rock as a church until Saladin’s army captured Jerusalem in 1187.Among the sites in the temple mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Farthest Mosque) exhibits magnificent Islamic architecture. The mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The Mosque was completely destroyed by earthquakes yet different Muslim dynasties rebuilt the mosque creating memorable history.

After the historical visit to the Temple Mount, the students continued their visit to The Jerusalem Archaeological Park, formally known as the Davidson Centre. This archaeological park consists of remains from several periods of Jerusalem’s illustrious history especially the second temple period. The site has several Jewish ritual baths (miqva’ot) used by Jews before entering the temple. The “Trumpeting place”, a stone that was hurled 40m down from atop the southwestern corner of the Temple mount by the Romans,which indicates the destruction of the second temple dated 70 AD. Furthermore, the inscription on the wall “And when ye see this your heart shall rejoice” believed to be inscribed by a medieval pilgrim. Robinson’s Arch, which is named after the American Bible scholar Edward Robinson, supported a staircase that led to the Mount. Eventually, Fr. Pol gave a concise account of the staircase of the Hulda Gates leading to the gates in the southern wall of the Temple Mount. According to historians, this staircase was used by many earlyJews to enter the Temple Mount. This marked the end of our topographical visit andwe express our heartfelt gratitude to Fr. Pol for his wonderful guidance. 


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