Solomon's Temple

Date and Medium: See remarks on the adjacent panel
Nave, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The position of this panel after David and before Jeroboam (respectively the father and son of Solomon) leads one to conclude that this is the Temple as built by Solomon. The panel shows a priest bringing a naked child to an altar, perhaps the offering of a firstborn male after 40 days required in Leviticus 12:2-8. The child cannot be the one over whom the two mothers argued, because the Temple had not been built when Solomon judged that case (1 Kings 3:16-27). The pitcher and candelabrum are on the altar as required in Exodus 25:29-32.

The basin in the foreground would be the "sea" that 1 Kings 7:23-26 says rested on twelve oxen, three facing in each of the cardinal directions. The text says it contained two thousand "bates," which would equate to 24,000 gallons (90,850 liters),1 and I have in fact seen a "sea" in a ruined Phoenician temple that could have contained that much, but even if the artist happened to know what a "bate" was he wisely chose to picture it as a small cistern proportioned to the other objects in the image.

This is part of the extensive series of Old Testament scenes along the two walls of the nave. To view the others, follow this link.

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Photographed at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 New American Bible, note to Isaiah 5:10.