Of the four principal entrances to the Temple, the most magnificent was the entrance that came in from the southwestern angle of the Temple, sometimes called “the Royal Bridge.” This was most likely “the ascent … into the house of the Lord,” that so astounded the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:5), as it would have been very difficult to exaggerate the splendor of this approach.
Approaching the Temple by this entrance, one would walk upon a colossal bridge on arches that spanned the intervening Tyropoeon Valley connecting the ancient City of David with was was called “the Royal Porch of the Temple.” The view from this “Royal Bridge” must have been breathtaking; of the Queen of Sheba upon seeing the sight it is said in the aforementioned verse, “there was no more spirit in her.” It was also over this bridge that our Savior in the sight of all Jerusalem was led to and from the palace of the high-priest, the palace of Herod, the meeting-place of the Sanhedrin, and the judgment-seat of Pilate. From this bridge the city would have lain spread before someone like a map and beyond it the eye would wander over straggling suburbs, orchards, and many gardens – the fairest the royal gardens of the south, or “garden of roses” according to the rabbis – until the horizon was bounded by the hazy outline of mountains in the distance.
From its ruins we can reconstruct this bridge; each arch spanned 41 1/2 feet, and the spring stones measures 24 feet in length by 6 in thickness. A single stone 24 feet long! And yet these were by no means the largest in the masonry of the temple. Both at the southeastern and southwestern angles stones have been found measuring from 20 to 40 feet in length, and weighing above 100 tons. Furthermore, over the wall of the bridge one could look in the Tyropoeon Valley 225 feet below; the roadway spanned this for 354 feet from Mount Moriah to Mount Zion with a breadth of 50 feet, about 5 feet wider than the central avenue of the Royal Temple-Porch into which it led. Such “porches” as the King James Version translates them, or more accurately “cloisters,” were some of the finest architectural features of the Temple running all around the inside of the wall, bounding the outer enclosure of the Court of the Gentiles. The porches also consisted of double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, cut wholly from a single block of marble, each pillar 37 1/2 feet high. The “Royal Porch” by which one enters the Temple was the most splendid, consisting of two 30 feet wide aisles and a triple colonnade formed by 162 pillars 50 feet high that ranged in four rows of 40 pillars each. The two odd pillars 100 feet high and functioned as a kind of screen where the porch opened upon the bridge. As the name suggests, the Royal Porch occupied the ancient palace of Solomon and specifically his stables.
It has been said of the temple:
It is almost impossible to realise the effect which would be produced by a building longer and higher than York Cathedral, standing on a solid mass of masonry almost equal in height to the tallest of our church spires.1
Now, considering such majestic and grand architecture and masonry of the past, what will archaeologists in 3,000 years conclude about OUR worship and view of God? What will be left of our pitiful buildings? In the past, very skilled stonemasons were hired to build places of worship that were intended to endure throughout time.
The buildings of the past were intended to convey the immense grandeur of God and many ancient cathedrals are still being used today after a millennium, though often the religious practices themselves have grown cold by today. God of course doesn’t “need” a great big building, but His people should be continually seeking to honor Him more and more with their talents, building up the place they meet to worship Him, the building itself pointing to Him and made to endure through time as a testament of their faith in Him.
Christianity today is in dire need of grand architectural work, responsive readings, and overall reverence, and less jokes and socials. It really baffles me how so few churches today still do responsive readings because such used to be a standard, especially in Baptist churches that claim to place such an emphasis on the written Word of God. It is my personal opinion that we will never see another revival as long as churches continue to avoid regular responsive readings in their services.
- Sir Charles William Wilson, Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 9.