So what links the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the Knights Templar?
The Temple Mount is an artificial platform large constructed by the biblical King Herod in Jerusalem. It supported an enormous Jewish Temple and later – when the city came under Muslim rule – the Al Aqsa mosque. That mosque then became the HQ of the Knights Templar when crusaders took the city in 1099.
The Knights Templar were convinced that underneath the vast Temple Mount platform was the original Temple of Solomon, built two thousand years before the Templars and a thousand years before King Herod. So they took over the Al Aqsa mosque, basing themselves directly on the Temple Mount.
Today, you can see the huge stone platform built by Herod but no Temple on top of it. Why? Because under the Roman Empire the Jewish people of Jerusalem revolted twice. And after those revolts the emperors Vespasian, Titus and Hadrian utterly destroyed the temple and carried off its treasures. That grand theft is even celebrated on the ancient arch of Titus that you can still see in Rome.
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Temple Mount and the Knights Templar
Even though Jerusalem came back under Muslim control when Saladin kicked out the crusaders, a Templar legacy was left behind. They had significantly enlarged the Al Aqsa mosque. And, more intriguingly, they had been busy tunnelling underneath it. And of course that has led to a slew of conspiracy theories as to what they were up to!
To get an idea of the sheer scale of Herod’s temple, I went to the so-called Wailing Wall. It’s actually the western wall of the Herodian temple. This is where Jewish people come to pray and weep over the fate of their beloved temple at the hands of the Romans.
The larger blocks of stone towards the bottom of the wall – and those stones are huge – date from King Herod. Further up are medium-sized blocks from the early Muslim period (the Umayyad period) and then above much smaller stones from the Ottoman empire that ruled Palestine up to 1917.
There is little evidence today that the Temple Mount was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar. Though as I say, if you look closely at the Al Aqsa mosque, you’ll see the Templar additions. They are now the gift centre and the women-only part of the mosque.