Dome of the Rock PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
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Dome of the Rock

From the Temple to the Dome of the Rock 

After the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD, its area apparently went out of use. The ancient sources are unclear on this point. A Roman historian, Dio Cassius, says that the Emperor Hadrian erected a Temple to Jupiter here. Yet his is not an eyewitness account. None of the pilgrim accounts mention a Roman temple, but they do report seeing statues. In fact, the base of a statue bearing Hadrian's name is embedded, recycled, in the southern retaining wall above the Double Gate.

After quelling the Bar Kokhba revolt , Hadrian banished the Jews from Jerusalem and rebuilt much of the city, calling it Aelia Capitolina. (Aelia was his middle name.) Lacking its Jews and Jewish Christians, it was small. In the modern Jewish Quarter, for example, beneath the stratum of destruction from 70 AD, the next level down was Byzantine. Aelia did not reach that far south.

In the Byzantine period, the site of the Temple was desolate. A pilgrim from Bordeaux, around 333 AD, saw there two statues of Hadrian, the blood of the prophet Zechariah on a stone, the marks of the hobnails of the Jewish soldiers who had killed him, and "a pierced stone which the Jews come to every year and anoint." The "marks of the hobnails" may have been the marks on the western edge of the large piece of bedrock beneath the Dome of the Rock. The "pierced stone" would then be the rock itself, which contains a hole to a cave below. The Jews, it would seem, were permitted to enter the city once a year to anoint this stone and pray for the restoration of the Temple.

"Right to the present day," writes Jerome ca. 400 AD, "...those faithless people who killed the servant of God and even, most terribly, the Son of God himself, are banned from entering Jerusalem except for weeping, to let them attempt to buy back at the price of their tears the city they once sold for the blood of Christ ...You can see with your own eyes on [the anniversary of] the day that Jerusalem was captured and destroyed by the Romans, a piteous crowd that comes together...That mob of wretches congregates, and while the manger of the Lord sparkles, the Church of His Resurrection glows, and the banner of His Cross shines forth from the Mount of Olives, those miserable people groan over the ruins of their Temple." (On Zephania I, pp. 15-16, quoted in Peters , p. 144.)  

Eusebius, writing before Jerome, noted that Christians liked to go to a cave on the Mt. of Olives (in the grounds of today's Pater Noster Church), "to learn about the city being taken and devastated." (Proof of the Gospels 6:18-23.) "Looking down on the desolate Temple platform, with the statues of the victorious emperors, they could contemplate the defeat of Judaism and the survival of their own faith." (Armstrong , p. 172.)

The beautiful Byzantine Empress Eudocia, in 438 AD, tried to let Jews back into the city. When they gathered to pray at the rock, however, the monk Barsauma, who never sat or lay down, arranged a massacre. He was so revered by the local Christians that the murderers went unpunished. It is doubtful, therefore, whether Jews returned in significant numbers.

The Temple platform remained a wasteland. Legend speaks of its use as a garbage dump. In the portion of the Madaba map that portrays Jerusalem, this area (a fifth of the old Herodian city) simply does not appear.


The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 AD, led by the Caliph Umar. The text of the Covenant of Umar states that the city will be closed to the Jews. Whatever the authenticity of this document, all other evidence indicates the contrary: the Muslims were the first to let significant numbers of Jews back into the city. (Peters, p. 186).