Biblical Archaeology Review 33:6, November/December 2007

Is a Piece of Herod’s Temple in St. Paul’s Cathedral?

By Gabriel Barkay

If you’d like to see what may be a piece of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple), pay a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. I’ll tell you later where in the church it can be found.

To explain how it got there, we must explore the life of a Scottish architect named James Fergusson. Born in 1808 in Ayr, the son of an army surgeon, Fergusson went to India as a young man and there produced indigo, earning enough in a decade to retire to London.

Although he had been trained as an architect, he never practiced his profession, but he did write widely and authoritatively about a wide range of architectural subjects. His interest in architecture and its history naturally led him to archaeology. Even before he published his landmark history of Indian architecture, he was working with the great Austen Henry Layard to reconstruct the Assyrian palaces Layard had then recently excavated in ancient Mesopotamia.

Jerusalem, too, was an early and major focus of Fergusson’s interest. In 1847, he published An Essay on the Ancient Topography of Jerusalem, based on an earlier exploration of the Temple Mount by the English architect Frederick Catherwood. There Fergusson first presented his theory that Solomon’s Temple stood not where the Dome of the Rock is located, but on the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. Moreover, based on certain Byzantine features in the Dome of the Rock, Fergusson identified it as the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre and therefore the site of Christ’s tomb.

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