Chambers of the Courtyard
|Chamber of Hewn
The Courtyard contained a large number of chambers which served a multitude
of different purposes. Along the eastern wall on either side of the Nikanor
Gate were two chambers. To the north was the Chamber of Pinchas the Clothier
where the Priestly Vestments were stored and distributed. The chamber was
named after the very first Temple clothier called Pinchas.
To the south of the Nikanor Gate was the Chamber of the Makers of the
Chavitin. In this chamber the Kohanim would prepare the
chavitin [named for the machavas, the type of pan in which it
is fried], a meal-offering offered daily – and paid for – by the Kohen
Gadol. Twelve loaves of chavitin were prepared each day, half of
which were offered in the morning and half in the afternoon.
On the southern side of the Courtyard there were two elevated chambers
located directly above the Water Gate. The first of these, the Chamber of
Avtinas, was where the Avtinas family would carry out the compounding of the
incense offered daily in the Temple. Adjacent to the Chamber of Avtinas on
the east was a mikveh [ritual bath] where the Kohen Gadol
would immerse on the morning of Yom Kippur as he began the
In the southeast corner of the Courtyard were three chambers. The Chamber of
Salt contained salt used to apply to the sacrifices. [All sacrifices were
salted before being placed upon the Altar.] The Chamber of Parvah, located
to the west of the Chamber of Salt, was where they would tan the hides of
the sacrifices. On its roof was a mikveh used by the Kohen
Gadol for the other immersions required as part of the sacrificial
service of Yom Kippur. The Chamber of the Washers was to the west of
the Chamber of Parvah and was used to wash out the stomachs of sacrificial
In the northeast corner were also three chambers. The Chamber of Hewn Stone,
so called for the special square stones used in its construction, was the
largest of the three northern chambers and served as the seat of the
71-member Sanhedrin court. Adjacent to the Chamber of Hewn Stone was
the Chamber of Wood used by the Kohen Gadol to store his priestly
vestments and also served as his residence for the week before Yom
Kippur. The Chamber of the Wheel contained a well which provided
water for the Courtyard. This chamber was named for the wheel and rope
system (i.e., a pulley) located there which was used to bring the water up
from the well.
Built around the first of the large Courtyard gates on the north side was a
chamber with a domed ceiling called the Hall of the Fire. Its main purpose
was to serve as sleeping quarters for the watch of Kohanim currently
on duty and it also provided them a place to warm themselves during the day,
a necessary amenity since they had to walk around barefoot on cold marble
floors as they performed the sacrificial service. [The Kohanim in the
Temple could not wear any article of clothing in addition to their priestly
vestments, which consisted of a robe, pants, belt, and a hat.] The large
warming fire in the main hall of this chamber gave it its name. It also
contained four smaller chambers in its four corners, each of which served a
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