Solomon's Stables (Hebrew: אורוות שלמה) or Marwani Prayer Hall (Arabic: المصلى المرواني) is an underground vaulted space now used as a Muslim prayer hall, some 600 square yards (500 square metres) in area, at the bottom of stairs which lead down from the al-Aqsa Mosque, under the Temple Mount, to the base of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Solomon's Stables are located under the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount, 12½ metres below the courtyard and feature twelve rows of pillars and arches.
The structure is most widely said to have been built by King Herod as part of his extension of the platform of the Temple Mount southward onto the ophel. The Herodian engineers constructed the enormous platform as a series of vaulted arches in order to reduce pressure on the retaining walls. These vaults, "supported by eighty-eight pillars resting on massive Herodian blocks and divided into twelve rows of galleries", were originally storage areas of the Second Temple. A great deal of the original interior survives in the area of the Herodian staircases, although not in the area now renovated for use as a mosque. Visitors are rarely permitted to enter the areas with Herodian finishes.
An alternative view suggests that the mosque was initially a water reservoir that had been built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century, along with the stone wall currently surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque. Its overall structure closely resembles that of the Roman Ramla reservoir with stone pillars and junctions. That the reservoir was built at the same time as the wall is evident since the southern and eastern walls of the reservoir are a continuation of the wall surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque. Instead of an addition built long after the wall, the reservoir was built at the same time, as can be inferred from the joining of the stones. The reservoir was used to collect water flowing into it from surrounding areas, through horizontal aqueducts made of stone and feeding into vertical canals in the external walls of the reservoir. One of these vertical canals can still be seen today and is located at the level of the main entrance of the Marwani mosque. It is semi-circular and is lined with a Roman fuller of limestone mixed with ground clay and sand. The flooring of the reservoir is made of stone, but is covered with layers of silt that have accumulated over the years.
During the Umayyad reign, this reservoir was converted into a prayer hall (mussalah) and was named the Marwani Mussalah, by the Islamic Umayyad Khalifa, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, along with the Dome of the Rock.[not in citation given] It remained so until the Crusaders converted it in 1099 into a stable for the infantry. The rings for tethering horses can still be seen on some of the pillars. The place used to be accessed from the single-panel gate located in the southern wall of al-Aqsa Mosque, which is also the southern wall of the Marwani mussalah.
The structure has been called Solomon's Stables since Crusader times as a historical composite. 'Solomon's' refers to the First Temple built on the site, while the 'stables' refers to the functional usage of the space by the Crusaders in the time of Baldwin II (King of Jerusalem 1118-1131 CE).
In 1996, the waqf built a modern prayer hall there, with a capacity for 7,000 worshippers.
In 1997, the waqf began digging up the southeastern area of the Temple Mount, drawing criticism from archaeologists, who said that archaeological finds were being damaged in the process and the excavations weakened the stability of the Southern Wall. The excavations are thought to have been responsible for creating a large, visible bulge in the Southern Wall that threatened the structural integrity of the Temple Mount, necessitating major repairs. The repairs have been called "unsightly", an "eyesore", and a "terrible job" because they appear as a large, bright, white patch of smooth stones in a golden tan wall of rusticated ashlar.
The soil removed from the dig was dumped near the Mount of Olives and a salvage operation, the Temple Mount Sifting Project, was undertaken in order to sift through the debris for archaeological remains. Many important finds have turned up.
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- Hershel Shanks, Jerusalem an Archaeological Biography, Random House, 1995, p. 141-15.
- Priscilla Soucek, “The Temple of Solomon in Islamic Legend and Art.” In The Temple of Solomon: Archaeological Fact and Medieval Tradition in Christian, Islamic and Jewish Art. Edited by Joseph Gutmann. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press,1976, p. 97
- Raef Yusuf Najm, Jordan’s Role in ensuring the protection of Islamic and Christian Holy Sites in Al Quds Al Sharif, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) conference, Amman, November 2004
- Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, Atlas Tours website
- Linquist, J.M., The Temple of Jerusalem, Praeger, London, 2008, p.207
- "Temple Mount Repairs Leave Eyesores," Hershel Shanks, September/October 2010, Biblical Archeology Review.
- First Temple artifacts found in dirt removed from Temple Mount