Fact Check

Temple of Baal in New York City

Temporary reproductions of the Temple of Baal's arch (destroyed by ISIS in Syria) planned for New York City and London sparked inaccurate online rumors; the former was put on hold indefinitely.

Published Mar 29, 2016

The Temple of Baal is being rebuilt in New York and London as an operable house of worship, with more such temples to follow.
What's True

Replicas of the arch from Syria's Temple of Baal were planned for London and New York City's World Heritage Week in April 2016; New York's project was shelved indefinitely as of early April 2016.

What's False

The structures will be full, permanent and operational houses of worship.

What's Undetermined

Whether the arch in London will be moved to New York after a period of initial display.

On 22 March 2016, an apocalypse-centric blog reported that the Temple of Baal, an ancient temple located in Palmyra, Syria, and consecrated to the Mesopotamian god, was being reconstructed in New York and London:

I realize that the headline of this article sounds like it must be false, but it is actually completely true. The Temple of Baal (also known as the Temple of Bel) was a world famous landmark that was located in Palmyra, Syria. In August 2015, this temple was destroyed by ISIS, and most of the world recoiled in terror at the loss of a "cultural heritage site". In an attempt to "preserve history", two exact replicas of the 50 foot arch that stood at the entrance to the temple will be erected in April 2016 in Times Square in New York City and in Trafalgar Square in London. Needless to say, a lot of people are quite disturbed by this. In ancient times, child sacrifice and bisexual orgies were common practices at the altars of Baal, and now we are putting up a monument of worship to this false god in the heart of our most important city ... A lot of secret societies and occult groups have traditions that tell them that Nimrod/Marduk/Osiris/Apollo/Baal will someday be resurrected and will once again rule the world

With all of the preceding in mind, could it be possible that we are actually erecting a temple for the Antichrist in New York City next month?

Other blogs added to the cacophony of fear, suggesting that the structure was one of many planned for myriad sites, and that its construction could invoke the wrath of God:

The reproductions of the 50 foot arch that stood at the Temple of Baal in Palmyra, Syria that will be erected in New York City and London next month will only be the first of many. As you will see below, it turns out that there are plans to put arches in hundreds more cities all over the globe. The organization behind this is the Institute of Digital Archaeology, which is a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford and Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The initial arches from the Temple of Baal that will be erected in New York and London as part of UNESCO's World Heritage Week in April are intended "as a gesture of defiance", but ultimately the plan is to share this "cultural treasure" with as many cities around the planet as possible.

Bringing the Temple of Baal to New York City is quite fitting. In 2016, we have become a nation that does not want God, does not want His Book, and most importantly has locked His Son Jesus Christ outside the doors of the professing Christian church. We have become greedy, selfie-centered, powerless wanderers, not realizing that the judgement of God has already fallen down upon us.

Many are saying that recreating the Temple of Baal in New York and London will 'open a portal' to sinister forces, and that the planets will be aligned in such a way during that time as to portend dark things. Now I don’t know about that, I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens but I do know this. For the last 8 years as a nation we have begged God to leave us alone and to remove Himself from our affairs.

Most such items cited a 16 March 2016 New York Times opinion column that addressed the reconstructions from a culture-based (not news reporting) pespective:

NEXT month, the Temple of Baal will come to Times Square. Reproductions of the 50-foot arch that formed the temple's entrance are to be installed in New York and in London, a tribute to the 2,000-year-old structure that the Islamic State destroyed last year in the Syrian town of Palmyra. The group's rampage through Palmyra, a city that reached its peak in the second and third century A.D., enraged the world, spurring scholars and conservationists into action. Numerous nongovernmental organizations are now cataloging and mapping damaged cultural heritage sites in the region.

It will be uncanny and thrilling to see this arch from an ancient desert civilization set against the bright lights of New York. Unfortunately, facsimiles can achieve only so much. Denuded of people, stripped of the rich social contexts in which they were once embedded, antiquities appear just as evidence of the grandeur of the past, the accomplishments of another place in another time. But what did these assemblages of stone mean to the modern Iraqis and Syrians who lived with them?

The first-century relic's destruction at the hands of ISIS was confirmed on 31 August 2015:

One of the most culturally significant pieces of architecture in the world has been destroyed, the United Nations said.

The U.N. training and research agency released satellite images and analysis that confirmed the Temple of Bel — which for nearly 2,000 years has been the center of religious life in Palmyra, Syria — was no longer standing, despite conflicting reports earlier in the day that it was not fully demolished.

The Times' editorial referenced the construction of a "facsimile," not an actual permanent house of worship, and cited a more straightforward item published on 28 December 2015 about the reproduced structures that were planned for New York City and London. Among the details in that earlier piece was contextual information about the purpose and duration of the Baal temples:

Replicas of an arch in the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, among the last remaining parts of an ancient Palmyra, Syria, structure demolished by the Islamic State, will be erected in London and New York.

The temple has been systematically razed, with the 50-foot-tall arch among the few remaining elements of the building still standing. The temple, dedicated in 32 A.D. to the Mesopotamian god Bel, attracted 150,000 tourists per year until 2011, when the civil war in Syria began.

The full-scale replicas, now under construction in China, will stand in London's Trafalgar Square and New York's Times Square during World Heritage Week in April 2016.

History reported that the projects encompasses full-scale replicas of the Temple's arch (not the entire structure):

Measuring some 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) high, the entrance arch of Palmyra's Temple of Bel was one of the few things left standing after the extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sought to systematically destroy the city and its ancient monuments earlier this year. Now, as a symbol of defiance against the jihadists who seek to erase the pre-Islamic history of the Middle East, the Palmyra arch will be recreated using a giant 3D printer and erected in prominent locations in London and New York City. The replicas, symbolizing the enduring importance of our shared cultural heritage, will serve as the centerpiece of World Heritage Week next April.

A representative from the Institute for Digital Archeology (IDA) described the replicas as "art":

Roger Michel, the IDA's executive director, told the Times: "It is really a political statement, a call to action, to draw attention to what is happening in Syria and Iraq and now Libya. We are saying to them 'if you destroy something we can rebuild it again'. The symbolic value of these sites is enormous. We are restoring dignity to people."

Given that the temple has already been targeted in Syria, Karenowska accepted that building the arches could pose a security risk, although she downplayed its impact. "A building like the National Gallery or Trafalgar Square, these are major targets by virtue of what they are," she said.

"Simply by placing a thought-provoking piece of art in one of those spaces, the level of heightened risk is very limited. This is something we are thinking about very carefully and that people involved are thinking about on a day-to-day basis."

On 8 April 2016, Britain's Telegraph reported that the New York Temple of Baal arch was indefinitely delayed; no specific reason was provided:

When the IDA revealed last December that it was intending to use its data and expertise to build not one but two replica Palmyra arches – to be unveiled simultaneously in Trafalgar Square in London and Times Square in New York – it generated headlines across the world.

Since then there has been some backtracking on the original idea. There will be no simultaneous unveiling in New York – they may transport the London arch there later, or build another one – and the Palmyra arch that is being reconstructed is no longer the entrance to the Temple of Bel (which survived an attempt to blow it up in August 2015) but the Arch of Triumph (partially destroyed in October) formerly located at one end of the Great Colonnade.

While it is true replicas of Palmyra's Temple of Baal arch were planned for temporary display in New York and London, the project solely involves reproducing the structure's arch and not creating a functional building. The project was tweaked for its London incarnation, and put on hold indefinitely in New York. However, interest in reproducing the demolished antiquity remained archeological in nature, not religious.

On 19 September 2016, the Palmyra arch was unveiled in City Hall Park in Manhattan for a one-week long installation.


Adamcyzk, Ed.   "Palmyra, Syria, Arch Threatened by Islamic State to Be Recreated in London, NYC." UPI.   28 December 2015.

Gayle, Damien.   "Palmyra Arch That Survived Isis to Be Replicated in London and New York." The Guardian.   28 December 2015.

Melvin, Don et al.   "ISIS Destroys Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, U.N. Reports." CNN.com.   31 August 2015.

Potenza, Sarah.   "Palmyra Arch That Survived ISIS Will Be Recreated in New York and London." History.   28 December 2015.

Pruitt, Alessandra.   "Syrian Arch Razed By ISIS And Re-Created With 3D Technology Arrives In New York City." History.   19 September 2016.

Richardson, Nigel.   "Why The Arch Of Triumph Of Palmyra Is Being Recreated In London - 1,800 Years After It Was Built." The Guardian.   8 April 2016.

Tharoor, Kanishk.   "Life Among the Ruins." The New York Times.   19 March 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.