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    The Temple treasures – Tishah B’Av

    Depiction of the Temple treasures on the Arch of Titus, Rome

    In the lead up to the fast of Tishah B’Av, marking the destruction of both Temples, it is appropriate to delve into the question of what happened to the Temple treasures.

    According to an ancient tradition, these treasures were taken to Rome, as depicted on the Arch of Titus. But other traditions suggest that the treasures never left Jerusalem and were buried there for safekeeping.

    A number of books purport to tell the story, and attempts have been made to find the burial place of the treasures and to remove all or some of them.

    A ditch beneath the Dome of the Rock in 1868 was investigated in April, 1911, by a Captain Montague Parker who at once left for Jaffa to board a British ship, and soon the world began to hear rumours that Parker had found the Ark of the Covenant, the royal crown and King Solomon’s sword.

    Josephus reported that a huge quantity of gold was removed by the Romans and carted off. A 5th century author, Procopius, stated that in 452 Geiseric stole the Temple vessels from Rome and took them to his palace in Carthage. Two years later the Roman general Belisarius was said to have reclaimed the golden vessels and taken them to Constantinople.

    As the emperor was warned by a Jew that holding the Temple vessels would bring disaster, they were ordered to be taken “to one of the holy places of the Christians in Jerusalem”.

    A number of authors knew of this story, though they believed that at least some of the Temple treasures were retained in Constantinople for about 1000 years – in particular, the gold candelabrum, which was lit on Christian festivals.

    If, then, some of the golden vessels were returned to Jerusalem at some stage, they may still be there. But Jerusalem passed through various hands, and the church or churches where the vessels were hidden may have been destroyed and the vessels plundered again. This was, for example, the view of the 19th century Jewish historian, Heinrich Graetz.

    However, other sources suggest that Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor from 610-641, had the Temple vessels moved to the Monastery of the Cross and buried there, but the monks were all killed and with them went the secret of where the Temple treasures were.

    So though it is not impossible that the vessels are in Jerusalem, no-one knows for certain where to look.

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