While the Temple Mount today is a commanding presence, the focal point of Jerusalem's Old City and among the most contested landmarks in the world, much of its physical grandeur is hidden from view, buried deep underground by the sediment and rubble piled on by the ravages of time and the ravages of conquerors. Part of the underground Temple complex is a series of arched rooms popularly called Solomon's Stables, a name given them by the Crusaders who seized the Temple Mount from Muslims in the 11th century, who assumed the rooms must have been used to stable the horses of King Solomon.
In actuality, the structure dates back to Herod the Great, who in the 1st century BCE embarked on an ambitious program to greatly raise and expand the Temple Mount's platform and rebuild the Jewish Temple atop it. Herod ran into a problem on the Mount's southeast corner, where the natural protrusion on which the Mount was built plunges steeply into the Kidron Valley. Herod, characteristically unflappable, raised a huge mound of soil to level the descent and built atop it a series of vaults to support the corner of the expanded Temple Mount.
Those vaults become Solomon's Stables. The Knights Templar kept their horses there, but after the Crusaders were chased out of the region, the Stables lay dormant – until 1996, when the waqf, the Islamic trust in control of the Temple Mount, converted the stables into a massive underground mosque. The stables, and the mosque they now contain, are currently in danger of collapse, due to extensive digs carried out on top of them by the waqf digs which have destroyed priceless antiquities dating back to the Biblical era, which have been condemned by international archaeologists as an attempt to destroy evidence of Jewish history on the Temple Mount complex, a history denied by the Palestinian government and mainstream Islam.
It is currently difficult for non-Muslims to gain access to the stables, making them a site unfortunately unavailable to most Jerusalem visitors.
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