Damascus Gate

| July 30, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Damascus Gate – Old City Jerusalem

The most ornate and beautiful gate in the Old City is Damascus Gate, the closest entryway to the Old City of Jerusalem from the neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael.

Yoavd  Public Domain Aerial View of Damascus Gate

Yoavd  Public Domain
Aerial View of Damascus Gate

Since Roman times, Damascus Gate (known in Hebrew as Nablus Gate – Shaar Shechem) has been the most important gate of the city.  Named for the cities it leads to, Damascus Gate  was built between 1536-1538. For the adventurous, this is a place to explore some Roman ruins and walk on actual pavement from that era.

Jerusalem Gates

As you face Damascus Gate, the most imposing of the Jerusalem Gates,  the first thing that strikes you is the beautiful ornamentation in the masonry atop the gate.  Walk a bit closer and look down to the left of the main gate. About 10 feet (3 m) below are the remains of the Roman triumphal arch that formed the foundation for the gate built by Sultan Suleiman in the 1500s.  Some experts speculate that the stones of the Roman section are actually from a that existed in Herod’s times. Certainly the gate was built by Herod to mark the northern border of the unwalled pagan Roman city that he renamed Aelia Capitolina – an action some cite as one of the causes of the Bar Kochba Revolt.  Look up at the lefthand side of the gate and you can still make out a portion of the Latin inscription with the words Aelia Capitolina.

Biosketch  CC BY-SA 3.0Damascus Gate

Biosketch  CC BY-SA 3.0
Damascus Gate

The Roman portion of the gate was restored in the mid-2000s, and visitors can walk through the gate and into the Roman forum where some of the ancient pavement has been uncovered.  Look for the hologram marking the location of the Roman column that was used to measure distance between Jerusalem and various points north and south.

There’s also a fascinating exhibit of ancient maps and photographs of how the gate and its surrounding area looked throughout history.

Exit Damascua Gate back out to Sultan Suleiman Street, turn to your right, and walk along the Old City walls. After a few hundred yards (meters), look for the brown sign pointing to Zedekiah’s Cave, deep within the bedrock of the wall.

Zedekiah’s Cave

The cave, open Sunday-Thursday from 10 a.m – 4:30 p.m, is actually a quarry believed to have been used in Temple times. As you enter, take a moment to look around at the vast underground space.

Avi Deror  Public DomainIn the Moslem Quarter

Avi Deror  Public Domain
In the Moslem Quarter

Zedekiah’s Cave is a  a man-made cave that was hewn out of the Jerusalem limestone by stonecutters who were protected from the elements by the structure itself.  Walk down the lit pathway and you’ll be walking down into the massive halls of the quarry, some 30 feet (9 m) below the Muslim Quarter.

The dimensions of the cave are breathtaking – and you don’t have to descend all the way down to get a picture of the vast area and its beauty.  The entire area covers several acres and contains a number of springs that trickle through the cracks in the stone.

The Gates of Jerusalem: Did You Know?

In addition to Damascus Gate, the gates of Jerusalem include:

  1. Zion Gate,
  2. Dung Gate,
  3. Gate of Mercy,
  4. Lion’s Gate,
  5. Herod’s Gate, and
  6. Jaffa Gate.
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Category: Archaeological, Historical, Jerusalem

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