Monday, June 23, 2014

Dimensions of the Chamber of Hewn Stone: Part 2

SUMMARY By modeling the building after a Roman basilica, it becomes much easier to fit the Chamber of Hewn Stone into the Courtyard.

In the last post I concluded that the maximum space available for the Chamber of Hewn Stone in the northeast corner of the Courtyard measures 21×55 amos, or 1155 amos2, far short of the required 1485 amos2. I believe that the solution to this problem lies in the Gemara (Yoma 25a) which describes this chamber as a "large basilica." In Roman times, the term basilica referred to a specific type of building. The following is from A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by Samuel Ball Platner:
Basilica: the name given by the Romans to a very common type of building erected for business purposes and also for the accommodation of the courts. It usually consisted of a rectangular hall, of considerable height, surrounded by one or two ambulatories, sometimes with galleries, and lighted by openings in the upper part of the side walls. The hall often ended in an apse or exedra.
[This citation comes from the website LacusCurtius, run by Bill Thayer, which contains much useful information on the ancient Roman world.]

Here is a very basic layout of what a Roman basilica looked like:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dimensions of the Chamber of Hewn Stone: Part 1

SUMMARY After looking at the numbers, the Chamber of Hewn Stone is, as they say, simply too big to be allowed.

The Chamber of Hewn Stone, in the northeast corner of the Courtyard, was the seat of the 71-member Sanhedrin court. The northern half of the chamber was built outside the Courtyard walls (and thus remained unconsecrated) and the southern half of the chamber was located within the Courtyard. Since the judges and students were seated during the proceedings, and sitting was not permitted in the Courtyard, they sat in the northern, unconsecrated half of the chamber. This Sanhedrin was arranged just like the smaller ones of the Temple Mount and Women’s Courtyard: the judges sat on seats in a semicircle facing south and three rows of students, also in semicircles, sat before them on the ground.

Size of the Judges' Area
The Gemara tells us that a person is one amah wide, so the judges formed a half-circle 71 amos in circumference. A full circle of this size would have a circumference of 142 amos, a diameter of 45.2 amos, and a radius of 22.6 amos. Thus, the amount of space occupied by the judges themselves amounts to an area approximately 45 amos wide (east to west) and 23 amos long (north to south). See diagram.
Area needed to seat 71 judges in a half-circle.

Monday, June 9, 2014

View of the Northern Courtyard Wall

With the Hall of the Fire now in place, all four gateways of the Courtyard's northern wall have been modeled. Pictured from left to right are the Gate of the Spark, the Gate of the Offering, the Women's Gate (a minor gate, just visible behind the portico support column), and the Gate of the Hall of the Fire. Although I show a curtain hanging across the gateway of the Hall of the Fire, I think that this curtain should be moved to the Hall's northern gateway instead. Since the purpose of the curtains was to grant the Temple a measure of privacy as the sacrificial service was being carried out, it would be better to place the curtain between the public and the staff lounge, so to speak, rather than between the Hall and the Courtyard. The Hall could not have had two curtains, one across each of its two gateways, since the Gemara (Kesuvos 106a) allows only one curtain per gate.

Gates of the northern Courtyard wall.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hall of the Fire: Part 2

Running around the interior of the Hall of the Fire were stone ledges, each one shorter than the one beneath it, forming stadium-like steps around all four walls upon which the Kohanim would sleep. The uppermost ledge was reserved for the elders of the watch of Kohanim scheduled to serve the next day, the other Kohanim slept upon the remaining ledges, and the youngest Kohanim slept below on the ground. Although the ledges ran around all four sides of the Hall the Kohanim were only permitted to sleep on those ledges in the northern, unconsecrated half of the Hall.

Sketch of the Hall of the Fire with the
ledges starting at ground level.
One of my biggest challenges in visualizing this chamber was figuring out how to design these ledges to conform to the opinion of Tiferes Yisrael who writes that the ledges formed the roofs of the four chambers in the corners of the Hall.