Jerusalem: Gates of the Old City

Here is another post of my “quick notes” on the site. As a guide, this is the essential information that I share…

Herod’s Gate:

Built in 1538-40 by Sulieman the Magnificent’s architects. Became a direct entry during the British Mandate, losing its “L” shape interior for traffic purposes. Called in Arabic “Bab ez-Zahra” or Flowers Gate, and is called Herod’s Gate because pilgrims of the C16 and C17 thought that a house built in the Mameluke Period (1250-1517 C.E.) was the former palace of Herod Antipas from the Passion story. They were wrong, but the name stuck. At noon on 15 July, 1099, the Crusaders breached the wall at this gate to take the city of Jerusalem and proclaim the Latin Kingdom.

The wall line between Herod’s and Damascus Gate has irregular channels that show parts of the walls are built upon the walls of Aelia Capitolina (135 C.E.).

Damascus Gate

Best example of Ottoman artwork in the city. The lower gate was built by Herod Agrippa I (41 C.E.), then rebuilt by Hadrian in his building of Aelia Capitolina. The Hadrianic gate, now uncovered below the present gate, had a large center gate with two pedestrian gates on either side. The gates Arabic name, “Bab el Amud” or gate of the column, reflects the column from the Byzantine Period that once stood near the gate as a landmark. You can see the column on the Medaba map mosaic (C6 CE). Outside the gate there were two roads, one leading to Damascus (north) and on veering west to the coast.


New Gate:

This gate was not from Sulieman’s work, and was opened later (1887) by Sultan Abdul Hamid to link the properties near the wall in the northwest of the city with the Old City. The tower nearby (around the corner in the park) is called Tancred’s Tower (after the Latin Kingdom ruler who may have commissioned it) and is built of stones originally cut for Herod’s palace inside the Jaffa Gate area. The stones were removed and built into this tower some distance away in the Crusader Period. The Arabs refer to the tower as “Qasr Jalud” or Goliath’s Castle, after a myth that David killed Goliath near there.


Jaffa Gate:

Called “Bab el Khalil” or Gate of the friend, a reference to the connecting road to Hebron (cp. Isa. 41:8). The wall next to the gate was torn down and a moat filled in 1898 by Sultan Abdul Hamid, so that Kaiser Wilhelm II could ride into the city. It retains the L shape interior, an ancient defensive method of slowing the advance of armies thru the gate and forcing a turn that exposes their unshielded side. A legend says that Sulieman was angry about the architects not including Mt. Zion in the walls of the city, so they are buried in the two graves inside the gate. The road that lead to Jaffa also originated here. Between Jaffa and Zion Gates are a number of walls from the time of Herod the Great and before exposed on the surface. A gate base of the first century is also exposed. The area of the southwest corner is where the Romans breached the wall in 70 C.E.


Zion Gate:

Called in Arabic “Bab en Nabi Daoud”, gate of the prophet David, because of the traditional tomb of David nearby. The bullet marks are largely from 1948, in the battle for the Jewish Quarter that was unsuccessful in holding the area under the Palmach forces. The entry retains the original L shape, and is now used as a car exit from the Armenian and Jewish Quarters.


Dung Gate:

Also called “Bab el Magharbeh” or Moors Gate was so anmed because of the North African immigrant quarter inside the area that was located here in the C16 C.E. The Jordanians widened it when Jaffa Gate was sealed because of the 1949-67 frontier. Leads now to the western wall plaza and the southwest excavations near the ancient Temple mount.


St. Stephen’s Gate:

“Bab el Ghor” or Jordan Gate, was so named by the Turks because it lead to Jordan. In the C6 CE, “St. Stephen’s Gate” was on the north wall, now the Damascus Gate. The name moved with a change in Pilgrim traditions to the eastern Gate. The Lion’s Gate gets its name from the decorative lions which were the emblems of the  Mameluke Sultan Baybars (Egyptian rulers that toppled the dynasty of Salahadin and took over his “empire”). The L shape inside the gate was removed by the British to make it possible to reach the Austrian Hospital in the Mandate Period.