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Celtic Hist. Newsletter: Solomon’s (Scottish) Temple?



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Link Correction Bronze Age sword found in a Co. Meath Bog 

The sword blade measures c. 40 cm in length and is fashioned out of bronze. The handle of the ‘rapier’, which was attached via two rivet holes, was probably made from an organic substance such as wood or bone and this no longer survives.

Sorry I had an error in the link code for the above tidbit last month. The link should work now. We also had a question about the term “rapier” as that seems like an anachronistic term. What sword historians call a rapier didn’t appear until the 1500’s. Use of the term for this artifact was also challenged by someone on the Facebook page of the National Museum of Ireland. But It appears that “rapier” is a term also used by archeologists for this type of short, narrow stabbing blade which dates from the Middle Bronze Age of Ireland.


High School Teen Disproves Pofessor’s Claim

-“No Irish Need Apply” not a myth


Solomon’s (Scottish) Temple?


After the Scottish Protestant Reformation of 1560 the last mention of a Catholic service in 


the chapel of Stirling Castle was in 1566 for the baptism of the future James VI. In 1568 the chapel was stripped of it‘s “idolatrous” Catholic furnishings and by 1583 it had fell into such disuse and disrepair that the royal Master of Works suggested to the king that it be demolished and replaced by a new chapel that would be set back to enlarge and square off the “close” on which the old chapel was located. Thus, in 1594 a new chapel was build for the occasion of the baptism of James VI’s new heir Prince Henry. It was an opportunity to impress an international audience that the James and his son were suitable heirs to the aging Queen Elizabeth of England. The new chapel was build in a mere seven months and acheived the goal of representing the Scottish royal aspirations. It is described as the earliest “Renaissance church” built in England with triumphal arch framing the main entrance and flanked by Italianate windows.

In addition, there is a contemporary letter referring to the chapel as “Solomon’s Temple” which has contributed to a theory that its design was intended as a Renaissance copy of the Biblical Solomon’s Temple.

The primary description of the original Solomon’s Temple appears in the First Book of Kings (1 Kings 6), and a summary appears in the Second Book of Chronicles. It is describe as 60 cubits long by 20 cubits wide and  30 cubits high.  (A cubit was based on the length of a man’s forearm from the elbow to end of the finger tips, or about 18 inches, or 46 cm in Biblical times.) The temple also had a vestibule at the east end with was either 20 x 10 cubits, or 20 cubits square depending on the Bible verses mentioned above. In English units the description in 1 Kings would come to about 105 feet long 30 wide and 45 high if one includes the “porch”. The  measurements of the chapel at Stirling Castle are 103.96′ x 29.63′ x 33.33′ which certainly seems in the same ball park as the Biblical description -especially given the variations in standard measurments over time.
There are also a couple of internal correlations regarding internal dimensions that have been made. The raised platform at the west end is said to correspond to the area of the Holy of Holies in the Solomon’s Temple. Aso the depth of the back wall of the undeground chambers under the east end of the chapel matches the 10 cubit measurement of the porch of the Temple form 1 Kings.

The chapel windows may not match the description in the Bible which is of “slanting windows” in Hebrew, or a interpretation of the Greek translation was described at “windows broad without and narrow within”. But they may coincide with an illustration of the Temple of Solomon from a 16th century Bible which is believed to have accidentally confused a description of his palace with the temple. The Chapel door also lacks the free-standing bronze pillars named Jochim and Boaz that are described as flanking the enterance to the ancient temple. But the double pillar design on the chapel does seem to match a portrayal of the temple on ancient coins. 

It is curious that the main door opens on the long side of the chapel rather than at one end as one usually sees with churches. But the Latin Vulgate describes a “door for the middle side, was on the right hand of the house”. In context, this was actually a minor door with access to the middle of the temple, but there is a later rich tradition of equating this side door with the spear wound in the right side of Christ.

While it was certainly not uncommon to base churches or chapels on the Temple of Solomon, beyond the physical symbolism, there are also several contemporary examples comparing the reign of James VI to that of Solomon. As early as 1579 for the entrance of James into Edinburgh at the start of his reign there was presented a tableau depicting the Judgement of Solomon. The Poel Alexander Montgomerie also described James as “A Salomon for richt(right) and judgement” in 1580. Furthermore, another tableau was presented at the after the coronation of Queen Anne comparing James and Anne to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Finally, in a letter regarding the planned baptism of James VI’s heir the Scottish courtier John Colville specifically mentions that “the great Temple of Solomon” could not be completed in time for the event. So it seems pretty reasonable that the chapel was intended to represent the Temple of Solomon and prossibly to symbolically reinforce the reign of the king and his heir

As such, it appears the chapel also has connections to early history of Freemasonry that are apart from  sily conspiracy theories. It is fairly well known that the fraternal order uses symbolism from the building of Solomon’s Temple, so I won’t go into that here, but there are some interesting practical connections: William Shaw was the royal Master of Works under James VI starting in 1583. Shaw is also know for writing the Statutes and Ordinances in 1598 which described the regulations regarding how masons’ apprenticeships worked, and how the craft was to be organized. His Second Statutes (1599) also touched some health and safety matters and specifically lists Stirling as the location of one of three primary lodges of masons in Scotland. In 1637 the Master of Works and General Warden of Scottish masons, Sir Anthony Alexander held a “court” at Stirling to discuss matters regarding of the trade of masonry. His brother Henry, later third Earl of Stirling, followed in Alexander’s footsteps as Master of Works and held a similar court in 1638.

The article I summarized this from does get a little into a conspiracy end of things however. The authors suggest that mention of the symbolism surrounding the design of the chapel may have been left out of things like the plans for the royal baptism in a “deliberate attempt to keep it secret because of the chapel’s pivotal role in the foundation of modern Freemasonry.” I’m a bit skeptical about that. I wonder if it was more a matter that the symbolism in the construction of chapels and churches was well enough known, at least among scholars, that it was a detail that could easily be glossed over. And if Shaw names Stirling specifically as a primary lodge, or meeting place for working/operative masons how much of a “secret” could it have been?





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