Billeder på siden
[blocks in formation]

zardan, commander of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria : nothing was left of it but ashes.

Fifty-two years afterwards, Zerubbabel and Joshua, or Jesus, son of Josedeck, high-priest of the Jews, obtained permission from Cyrus to rebuild it on the same spot, and they immediately commenced the work: but their operations had afterwards to encounter numerous obstacles, either on the part of the prince by whom they had at first been favoured, or from his successor, so that they could not be finished till the year 3488, the sixth of the reign of Darius, when the dedication took place. Though prodigious sums had been expended in the rebuilding, and all resources had been exhausted in the embellishments, the aged men, who recollected the old edifice and compared it with the new one, could never eease deploring its destruction,

In the year of the world, 3986, Herod the Great proposed to the Jews to demolish the then existing temple, and promised to build another, surpassing in extent and magnificence that of Solomon, the constant object of the regret of the nation. The people, surprised, at first showed some reluctance to consent, fearing lest they should be without temple and without altar; but Herod pacified them by deelaring that he would not pull down the edifice where they assembled to worship the Lord, till all the materials requisite for the execution of his plan should be provided. He commenced the work in the following year, and devoted to it immense treasures. Ten thousand labourers were employed in cutting rocks, filling precipices, or erecting the buildings. The work was finished about the middle of the tenth year; the

[blocks in formation]

dedication took place in the year 3996, on the anniversary of the accession of that prince to the throne. It subsisted only seventy-seven years.

This was the Temple, the destruction of which was foretold by Christ; and, concerning which, Titus said to the deputies of the nations which sent him congratulations and crowns : “I am but an instrument of divine vengeance."

In 638, Jerusalem, after sustaining a siege of two years, was forced to offer to capitulate. Omar granted it terms; then, affecting sentiments of the deepest de. votion, he entered the city clad in a coarse garment of camel's hair, proceeded to the court of Solomon's temple, caused the filth to be cleared away from it by his soldiers, to whom he himself set the example, and publicly promised to build a mosque there for those of his own faith.

In a few years the work was completed : the mosque was called Gament-al-Sakra, from the name of the rock, where, it was asserted, God had spoken to Jacob. At the time when the city was taken by the crusaders, a great number of Mussulmans sought refuge there. Most of them were slaughtered, either within or without this temple, which was afterwards converted into a church, and used for the catholie worship, till the period of Saladin's triumphs over the Christians.

The mosque of Omar is built upon a platform, raised about six feet above the level of the place; it is a quadrangle, each side of which is about two hundred paces in length. At each of the four cardinal points there is a flight of eight marble steps, by which you ascend to it.



The building is an octagon, surmounted by a dome, above which is a lantern of the same form, adorned with stained glass of different colours. The walls, lined with small squares of marble or painted porcelain, exhibit a sort of mosaic work, bordered by foliage of whimsical design, in which are framed, as it were, the most remarkable passages of the Koran, inscribed in letters of gold.

Close to it is the reservoir at which the Turks perform their ablutions before they go to prayers.

Owing to the distance at which the observer is placed, even in the position which I occupied, the proportions of the building cannot be calculated with any precision. If we may rely on the writers who appear to have been best informed on the subject, it is about two hundred and fifty-six feet in circumference and one hundred and twenty in height.

My Turk assured me, with the greatest seriousness, that within it is to be seen a stone of enormous size, suspended in the air, and upheld in it as by a miracle. My dragoman, who is neither a dolt nor over-credulous, affirmed the same thing; and, what is still more extraordinary, a Catholic mason, who had accompanied us, told me the same story. All three pitied my unbelief, and were vexed to hear me treat their account as a silly story. The mason passes in Jerusalem for an excellent man. Twenty times have I questioned him concerning this prodigy, and twenty times he has repeated his first assertion. He insists that he is more certain of the truth of what he states, because he has been employed for some months in the repair of the interior : “and



I had plenty of time,” he gravely adds, “ to look at and to examine this stone, which is of a green colour.”

I afterwards questioned several persons of Jerusalem, who seemed to me not deficient in sense.

What was my surprise to find them offended at my obstinate unbelief! If there can be any truth in the story, which I still can. not help thinking evidently fabulous, the stone in question is no doubt actually to be seen at the top of the mosque, where it has been so skilfully fixed, that the observer who looks at it from below is the dupe of an illusion, and persuades himself that it touches nothing.

Few travellers, probably, have visited Jerusalem without feeling a strong desire to enter this mosque and to convince themselves with their own eyes of the truth or falsehood of all that is related concerning it. In general they have been withheld, some by apprehension of the personal danger which they should incur, others by the fear of compromising those from whom they were receiving hospitality, or even all the Catholics dwelling in Jerusalem. Mention is nevertheless made of several persons, who, disguised as Arabs, found means to gratify their curiosity : among others are mentioned a Spaniard, Don Domingo Badia y Leblich, who travelled under the name of Ali Bey el Abassi, and Burckhardt, who assumed the appellation of Sheik Ibrahim: both passed for Mahometans, and both spoke Arabic so fluently that they might well be mistaken for natives of the country.

In 1818, Madame Belzoni successfully employed the same stratagem. In the dress of a Turkish woman, she penetrated without obstacle into the mosque. She there





saw a great number of pillars, mostly of granite, the capitals of which appeared to be of coarse workmanship, like all the works of Mahometan architecture. Having entered a kind of closet, lighted by a large window, she there found a Catholic mason, who told her that this was the place where the aged Simeon and Anna, holding in their arms the infant Jesus, had prophesied. The mason afterwards pointed out to her an aperture in the wall, looking towards Siloa, and assured her that originally there was a door there by which Christ entered the Temple. He would have shown her many other things not less interesting, and which he regarded as sacred; but the lady, not understanding Arabic, and very little of Italian, so that she could scarcely comprehend what he said to her; tormented, moreover, by the very reasonable apprehension of being surprised in such a place, thanked him, and hastened out of it.

Before we retired, my dragoman made me remark around the Place, and particularly at the points nearest to us, fragments of porticoes, columns, and arcades, from which numerous lamps were suspended ; and he pointed out one as being the very site of “the gate of the Temple which is called Beautiful,” where sat the beggar, lame from his birth, whom the apostle Peter cured in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

My Turk was more anxious to relate to me Mussulman traditions. “Do you see,” said he, pointing to a kind of chapel on the right, “ do you see that little building ?- it contains a stone, which is there by a miracle.” According to him, this stone was formerly carried away by the Greeks, but, no sooner was it out of

« ForrigeFortsæt »