In his contribution to The Old Testament in Byzantium , Robert Ousterhout examines the efforts of Eusebius and others to draw connections between Solomon’s temple and the church of the Holy Sepulcher: ““‘holy sites’ and relics previously associated with the Temple migrated to the holy sepulchre complex.”

Some of the sights were linked with the end of the old temple: “in the fourth century the Pilgrim of Bordeaux saw on the Temple Mount ‘an altar which has on it the blood of Zacharias—you would think it had only been shed today—as well as the footprints of the soldiers who killed him.’ In the sixth century, the author of the Breviarius saw the ‘altar where holy Zacharias was killed, and his blood dried there,’ in front of the Tomb of Christ.”

Mostly the connections were positive:

“Sometime before the seventh century, the omphalos or navel of the world was also relocated inside the church of the holy sepulchre. Events from the life of Christ associated with the Temple were transferred as well. For example, pilgrims in the sixth century were told that the inner courtyard of the holy sepulchre was the Temple court ‘where Jesus found them that sold the doves and cast them out.’ In addition, Christian pilgrims saw an evocative collection of Old Testament relics: the horn of the anointing used for the anointing of the Jewish kings, the ring of Solomon, and the altar of Abraham. Unmentioned in the Jewish sources, the horn of the anointing is first noted by Egeria in the late fourth century; she says that it was venerated along with the wood of the Cross and the ring of Solomon on Good Friday. The ring of Solomon was apparently a seal-ring, decorated with a pentagram. A Jewish legend, well known in the early Christian centuries, claimed that King Solomon had employed it to seal the demons and thereby gain power over them. While under his con trol, the power of the demons was channeled to aid in the construction of the first Temple. Elsewhere in the Basilica of Constantine, pilgrims saw the vessels in which Solomon had sealed the demons” (238).

Romanus the Melode captured the point succinctly in his Hymn 54: “The people of Israel were deprived of their Temple / but we instead of that, / Now have the holy Anastasis and Sion / Which Constantine and the faithful Helena / gave to the world / Two hundred and fifty years after the fall” (241).

More on: History

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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