What Lies Beneath the Lateran?

arch of titus

Roman Triumphal arch panel copy from Beth Hatefutsoth, showing spoils of Jerusalem temple – From Wikimedia Commons

They were finally gone, sent away empty handed and believing the Priests of the Holy Roman Catholic Church were not latter-day thieves of their oh so precious Jewish artifacts.

Cardinals Angelo Vincenti and Francis Curia were not young men, but still strong enough to assist the eighty-four year old Pope down into the lowest levels of the Lateran, the residence of his Holiness. The party from the Israel Antiquities Authority were granted admittance even here in order to satisfy their suspicious curiosity. Of course none of the artifacts they sought were present. The Church was once again forced to feign friendship and good will to the nation of Israel in defiance of the law of Christ, but it was necessary for now. Once the Lord Jesus Christ returned from Heaven and the Church took full possession of both Rome and Jerusalem, the entire truth would be known. However premature knowledge of the true plan of the Popes spanning back to St. Peter himself would ruin everything.

They now faced a blank stone wall, presumably hiding nothing but tons of rock. “Cardinal Vincenti, if you would.”

“Of course, your Holiness.” The sixty-three year old Cardinal strode forward silently for he was on Holy ground, to begin manipulating the cunningly hidden ancient locks that would reveal the unknown treasure chamber. Cardinal Curia remained at his side supporting the aging Papal figure.

This was a secret passed down from one Pope to the other and jealously guarded for well over a thousand years. Only these two Cardinals, John Paul’s strong right and left arms, shared in the knowledge and on the day the Pope died, a covert group within the Italian Guardia Svizzera would assassinate them both, though their deaths would be attributed to misfortune. Then his successor would receive the private instructions he left behind ushering him into the inner circle that knew the truth and then he would select his two faithful aides.

Damnable bad luck that the late 12th century Spanish Jew Benjamin of Tudela actually wrote down his witnessing two columns from the Jerusalem Temple residing in the Church of St. John the Lateran, and worse that the Jews in Rome at the time told him that not only was the Menorah and many other items from the pillaged Herod’s Temple in a hidden cave under the Lateran, but the Ark of the Covenant as well.

“Almost open your Holiness.”

Ah yes, the Ark. True, the First Crusade of the Church in the 11th century had failed to reclaim the Holy Land, but a group of Knights and their vassals had stumbled upon a cave in the mountains where legend said the Prophet Jeremiah had hidden the Ark and the Altar of Incense.

“The door is open your Holiness.” Cardinal Vincenti returned to the Pope’s side and then both of the men in red escorted him into the ancient chamber. He knew nothing would have changed, but he needed to see it all for himself. The Menorah, the Ark, all of the Temple vessels and other treasures still rested where they had for centuries. They were the rightful property of the Church as administered by the Pope. Once day Jesus would vindicate the Holy Church and the world would know, especially Israel, that it was the Church and not Jerusalem, that was the inheritor of all of God’s promises.

He was an old man and expected soon to be welcomed into Heaven by St. Peter himself and to sit at the right hand of Christ. It was his right and reward for many years of faithful service.

As the party closed the hidden treasure room and returned to the official part of the palace above, Hashem, God of the Hebrews burned with anger and if it had been perceived, Rome itself would have quaked with horror. One day the Moshiach would fight for Jerusalem and claim his throne in the Holy City and then under a rod of iron, Rome and the Church of the goyishe Catholics as well as many others would find they had much to repent for.

I’ve probably just offended a whole bunch of people, particularly since I used the name of the person who was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2004.

I read today’s Torah Portion which included the construction of many of the artifacts used first in the Tabernacle in the desert and later in Solomon’s temple, and I couldn’t help but think of the fate of some of those articles including the great Menorah, hammered from a single piece of gold.

We know that in 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, sacked and then ravaged the Holy Temple, and took many of its gold and silver items back to Rome. The Arch of Titus depicts the “Roman triumph” in which the spoils of war, including the Menorah, were marched around the city in celebration.

Over the years, the Jewish people and Israeli government have requested the Church’s assistance to determine if they possessed these items. The Church has always denied they did and in 2004, emissaries from the Israel Antiquities Authority were granted access to the Vatican to search. They went away empty handed and presumably the looted items are lost for all time.

I found articles at The Daily Beast and on Rabbi Mordechai Levin’s blog describing these details, many of which I included in my fictional tale. I also, just for giggles, looked up what might have happened to the Ark of the Covenant which legend says the Prophet Jeremiah buried in a cave on Mt. Nebo.

If rumor says the Ark was in Rome by the 12th century, then in my fictional history, it would have been possible it was discovered and taken by Knights of the First Crusade late in the 11th century and ultimately found its way into the Lateran.

Remember, I made all this up as a sort of “conspiracy theory” version of what happened to the Temple artifacts. I just felt like writing a piece of religious fiction today and this satisfied that urge. I apologize to any Catholics who are reading this. No, I don’t believe that the Church is thumbing its nose at Israel and the Jewish people. I do believe however, that God’s promises to Israel are permanent and binding, so I think we’re all in for a bit of a surprise by the by.

4 thoughts on “What Lies Beneath the Lateran?

  1. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church is in something of a difficult spot, because suspicion falls upon them for inheriting the spoils that the Roman Empire was responsible for looting. It doesn’t help their case when documented rumors persist about the existence of such antiquities within their archives. However, all this will be resolved when the Jewish Messiah restores sovereignty in Jerusalem in accordance with ancient prophecy. If, in the meantime, Jews have had to recreate the original artifacts in order to restore the functions of their rebuilt temple, and then the originals are brought to light, perhaps the vassal state represented by the Vatican may be honored for preserving them, without asking too many questions about why they were not restored to Israel sooner.

    Liked by 1 person

      • On the other hand, there are worse scenarios. Some folks think that the “false prophet” of the “beast”-empire cited in the Revelation of John will be the last of the Popes (maybe even the present one). It could be just a bit difficult to recover any sense of honor after serving *that* sort of role in history, much like the problem faced by post-Nazi Germany, and the embarrassment that Poland recently has been trying to bury by passing a law against public statements about Polish complicity in the Nazi era vis-à-vis facilities like Auschwitz.


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