I’m preaching a message on Haggai 2:1-9 inspired by the phrase “Desire of Nations” found in the advent song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
The point of the passage is that the Second Temple that Ezra was building didn’t look very impressive to anybody who could remember the first one built by Solomon four centuries earlier.
Haggai was writing about 520 BC, so there’s nobody today who remember’s Solomon’s Temple. Apart from what the Bible says, we do know a little bit about the Second Temple from the Arch of Titus in Rome that celebrates its destruction in AD 70. Clearly, they used menorahs:
(Click on a picture to see it enlarged).
What might Solomon’s Temple have looked like? From the text of Haggai, it seems to have had a lot of silver and gold decoration. How much? We can look at some churches built in the past for a clue.
Here’s the altar of the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Worms, Germany:
Apart from its altar, St. Peter’s really a pretty austere place, as Gothic Cathedrals go. But it’s decorated with some seriously weird art. For example, what’s with this guy?
Of course, Germany’s no patch on Italy. Here’s the church of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in Rome, across the street from the train station:
(For some scale, the guy tying his shoe in the second picture is leaning on the wall located about 4 o’clock across the floor from those two people in the foreground of the first picture.)
But that’s just a church in Rome. What about the Vatican itself? Here are some pictures from the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica:
There’s a statue on your right when you enter the building:
But even the Vatican isn’t fancy, compared to the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valetta, Malta.
The only problem is it needs more gold leaf, don’t you think?
More gold leaf? Coming up:
“I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more gold leaf.”
Beside gold leaf, they also used a lot of Maltese Crosses in their decorating.
But it’s not just gold leaf and Maltese Crosses. There’s also a lot of marble. The only problem? They use it to make skulls and skeletons: