The Sages tell us that

  • Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, Jerusalem took nine – Talmud, Kiddushin 49b
  • Whoever has not see Herod’s Temple has not seen a beautiful building in his lifetime – Talmud, Bava Batra 4a
  • There is no beauty like that of Jerusalem – Sayings of Rabbi Natan 28
  • Is this [Jerusalem] the city that men called The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? – Lamentations 2:15

When I read this, it doesn’t stir any imagination.

One was not allowed to leave the Temple through the same gate as one had entered, because familiarity dulls the mind to beauty. However, that still didn’t give me a clue what its beauty was like.

When the great Jewish leader and historian Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), born Joseph ben Matityahu, writes that the entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts, it means little to me.

When I heard that the floors in the Temple in Jerusalem were made of colored stones, I thought of floors like this:floornone1

Or this:floornone2

Or some of these:flooenone3

Or maybe this:floornone4

Or perhaps this:floornone5

However, the Temple floors didn’t look like this at all.

A mathematician made alliyah, decided to join the project to help shift rubble removed from the Temple Mount, and wondered if she would be able mathematically to reconstruct tiles from these colored stone fragments, and the rest is history.

These were the pieces she found:floorpieces2

And: floorpieces

And this is what she reconstructed:

floor12 floor7 floor6 floor9 floor10 floor4 floor8

floor1 floor2

floor5 floor11

Here and here and here you may read the reports about this reconstruction.

I wasn’t expecting anything as shockingly beautiful as this. I don’t know if these pictures speak to you. But when I see them, I do get a sense that the Second Temple indeed was the most beautiful building that ever was constructed. And this was only the floor!