Sunday, June 14, 2020

Haram area in Jerusalem. Southern Wall, 1–6

Aerial photo of the Southern Wall of the Haram esh-Sharif. The dashed lines show the borders between the wall rows of different historical periods. The numbers mark different places of interest, which will be described below.

1. Initial masonry Wall

When moving along the Southern Wall eastwards from the south-western corner of the Haram area, it takes a few meters to get to the modern stairs which lead us 3–4 meters higher than the basement of the ancient wall placed on the solid rock. However, during the archeological research the archeologists got the lowest level of the wall standing of the solid rock. Later Israeli organizers of the Archaeological park in Ophel set the stairs and a wooden flooring, to make it easier for tourists and visitors to climb up to the old pavement after the stairs.

South-western corner of the Haram esh-Sharif

The lower layers of the wall of the Haram esh-Sharif wall through a narrow opening between the wooden flooring and the ancient Haram platform

Anyway, the organizers of the park left observable the lower layers of the wall of the Haram esh-Sharif wall through a narrow opening between the wooden flooring and the ancient Haram platform.  In the photo: we are standing over this narrow opening and watching stone blocks below at the foot of the wall. These are huge roughly dressed ashlars laying lower than the exemplary Herodian blocks. But it should be Herodian blocks (if we follow a common version) which made the original courses of the Haram walls! Especially since the southern part of the esplanade is considered as the Herodian expansion of the Hasmonean Temple.

We could stop the excursion at this point as we eye witnessed that the original courses of the Southern Wall is not Herodian. But we didn't come to the Southern Wall to argue with the commanding archeological school and contradict its fallacies (see: Haram area (“Temple Mount”) in Jerusalem: The Origin), but to study this wall. Thus let's get down to our research.

Benjamin Mazar reports that «we found below the estimated level of the sidewalk two rows of stone chambers built in the flood. In the easternmost part, we even found a blocked hole between the two rows, while another hole was a little higher, leading to the next chamber to the east, to the “Double Gate”. Here we came to two conclusions: these chambers were built as a continuous row along the entire length of this part of the south wall» (1970: 54). These chambers were closed and cannot be seen.
Excavations of B. Mazar at the western part of the Southern Wall (before the discovery of the so-called “Trumpeting Place inscription”) (Mazar 1970: 53)

2. The old pavement

The old pavement 2.5–3 meters wide saved by the organizers of the Archeological park is stretching along the Southern Wall from the south-western corner up to the fortification (Keep) wall. The pavement consists of flags and stones of different size. One cart could move on this road, but two oncoming carts could not get past each other.

The old pavement is stretching along the Southern Wall from the south-western corner up to the fortification (Keep) wall

Charles Warren comments this place as follows, «At the southwest angle, and for at least 90 feet along the south wall, we have found a second and less ancient pavement. It is about 20 feet above the first pavement, and about 23 feet below the present surface; it is nearly on a level with the sill of the Prophet's Gateway, and with what appears to have been an old surface under Wilson's Arch... It was under this pavement that the signet "of Haggai, the son of Shebaniah," was found in 1867; and in another shaft at the southwest' angle we have found several fragments of pottery at a depth of about 5 feet below the pavement. Among the fragments are several Greek lamps, one of which has an inscription of Christian origin, similar to those on lamps which have been considered to be of the third or fourth centuries» (1871: 95).

Warren was wrong when dated the pavement 3–4th centuries. He was misled by Christian artefacts, which were found not on the pavement itself, but somewhere away from it. Modern archeological excavations put the things right. As the lower course of the Umayyad palaces lays 3-4 meters lower of this pavement, it should be dated Mamluks times or even Ottoman period.

Southern Wall of the Haram esh-Sharif (photo of 1931)

Until 1967 the pavement along the Southern Wall was covered with earth and bushes and wasn't in use during a few centuries.

3. The arch buttress and wall protrusions

There is a pointy arch built up with stone blocks near the south-western corner of the wall of the Ottoman period. It is an ordinary arch buttress, which we often see in Turkish constructions, as well as in Jerusalem. In the past such arch buttresses were crucial for constructions located in in areas of seismic activity. This arch incases the first window in the Southern Wall, which belongs to the former al-Maghariba Mosque, which is now the Islamic museum in the Haram esh-Sharif.

Under this arch buttress at the border of the Umayyad-Mamluks and Ottoman courses there are a few wall protrusions. Researcher refer them to a bridge of the Umayyad's period, like Robinson's Arch, which connected the Muslim sanctuary with the Umayyad Palace (Murphy-O'Connor 2008: 112). The remains of this palace, which adjoined to the south-western corner of the Haram complex, are still standing in the Archeological park in Ophel.

The arch buttress

Western part of the Southern Wall. Drawing from Warren's book (1884b Pl. XXVII)

The illustrated edition of Dan Bahat shows the view of the Haram esh-Sharif in the Early Islamic period. A few Umayyad palaces were adjacent to the Southern Wall.  It shows how one could climb up the stairs from the roof of one of these palaces to the arched bridge, which led to the Sanctuary just where there are wall protrusions and the pointy arch. Bahat calls this passage El-Walid Gate connecting it with al-Walid I, an Umayyad caliph.

The Haram esh-Sharif in the Early Islamic period (Bahat 1990: 82–83)

«The gates dating from earlier times were those that opened on to the Temple Mount, — Bahat says. — A number of historical sources state that four gates existed in the southern sector of the Temple Mount: the Walid Gate, which led from the roof of the central palace to the Aqsa Mosque; the Gate of the Prophet (the Double Gate) which was also renovated during the Umayyad period; and Bab es-Sitta (the Single Gate)» (Bahat 1990: 82). Here Bahat skipped the third gate marked in his picture – the Triple Gate.

The Umayyad Palace was badly damaged in an earthquake in 748 year and fully destroyed in an earthquake in 1033. It is supposed that at the same time the bridge leading to the Haram area fell down. Since that time Ophel district had never been inhabited anymore and had become a site of construction materials. In the end of 11th century, when the Crusaders came, there were only ruins in front of the Southern Wall.

Though the reconstructions of Bahat doesn't go smoothly, with irregularities in the form of the fact that the protrusions in the Southern Wall, which are considered as the remains of the bridge, are actually not in the Umayyad courses, but the later layers of the small reddish ashlars of Fatimid or even Mamluks times. But it is not crucial. The crucial thing is the fact whether the bridge was a Muslim construction if it ever was at all.

4. The garlanded cross

This wonderful Byzantine architectural element doesn't belong to the Southern Wall of the Haram area, as it lays in the first row of the Keep wall course, built by Crusaders and adjoined to the Southern Wall opposite to the al-Aqsa Mosque. But this element shows the variety of materials which the builders of the Keep and all Southern Wall were using.

The garlanded cross

We are likely to see a doorway lintel. Two crosses carved on the lintel of the garlanded cross shows its belonging to a Christian construction. This lintel is supposed to crown the main entrance to the Nea, a great church built by Justinian I in 543 in the south part of the city (Murphy-O'Connor 2008: 113).

As for Keep, which the Arabs called Zawiya Khanthaniya, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor tells the following, «a tower, which may have been erected by the Fatimids when they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the earthquake of 1033. Subsequently it was remodelled by the Crusaders, then transformed by Saladin in 1191 and later by the Mamluks at the end of the C15» (2008: 113).

We really doubt that the Fatimids as zealous Muslims, would block the hallowed by the Quranic tradition front entrance to the Haram esh-Sharif through the Double Gate and deform it with this fortification annex. Please find below the information about the meaning of the Double Gate in the Islamic tradition.

Nowadays there is the library of the al-Aqsa Mosque in the former Templar Keep. The UNESCO claims that this library has “one of the most paramount collection of Islamic manuscripts in the world”.

5. The Double Gate

The Double Gate stands 110 m south-westwards from the corner of the Haram complex, right under the al-Aqsa Mosque. According to Nasir Khusraw and other sources, the Double Gate was called Bab an-Nabi (“Gate of the Prophet [Muhammad]”) and was connected with the Muslim tradition Isra and Miraj. This is the name of a night journey of Muhammad to Jerusalem and his ascent into the heavens. In this place the prophet tied his mule al-Buraq to the wall and came into the Haram area through this gates (Safarnama, p. 79; Grabar 1996: 48; Martin 2000: 128).

The Double Gate

Thus, the Southern Wall was the main façade wall of the Umayyad Haram esh-Sharif, and the Double Gate was the most important of all the gates. The Muslims think that the Southern Wall is oriented to Mecca, that's why the al-Aqsa Mosque which is closely adjacent to the wall, is also called al-Qibli Mosque.

Some time ago, the Double Gate led to a underground vaulted passageway where there was a staircase which the believers used to climb up to the Sanctuary surface, right in front of the al-Aqsa Mosque. «The reason for the piercing of this gateway was to enable the inhabitants of the suburb lying obliquely beyond to enter the Haram area at their pleasure, without having to pass through other quarters of the city», — Nasir Khusraw explains (p. 85). At that time the Gate was still working. The height from the pedestal of the Double Gate to the Haram esplanade is about 15 m.

Mujir al-Din describes this underground passageway as follows, «Eastwards under the Mosque there is a big vaulted room with the retaining walls. This room is under the mihrab and lectern. This underground place is called the Ancient el-Aqsa el-Qadima. This is probably the remains of Solomon's constructions what indicates the meticulousness and strength of the course» (Ed. by H. Sauvaire 1876: 124).

The Double Gate. The photo from the album of Ch. Wilson (1865: 13)

The exterior and interior views of the Double Gate in the Haram esh-Sharif in the middle of 19th century. Comparing of the Double Gate image in the Atlas De Saulcy (1853 III, Pl. XXIV 7) and the image in the Pierotti book (1864 II, Plate XXV).

In this image we can see that in the middle of 19th century the surface of the ground was two meters higher than the current level of the pavement. This explains Pierotti's comment, «Under its arch is a grated window; by climbing up to this, it is possible to look into a vaulted gallery below the mosque» (1864: I 69).

The entrance hall of the Double Gate. The picture of Carl Haag (1859)

The entrance hall of the Double Gate. The picture of Vasily Polenov (1882)

The first Europeans of the New Time who managed to enter the underway passage under the al-Aqsa Mosque were F. Arundale, F. Catherwood and J. Bonomi (November 24, 1833); they made the first image of the Double Gate (Arundale 1837: 85; Tobler 1857: 308). In January 1842 William Tipping while hiding from the praying Muslims, got into the entrance hall of the Double Gate and made a quick sketch. The researchers who studied this image, concluded that, «the roof, with its arches and groins, and which seems to be a Roman work, whether of Hadrian's or of Herod's time» (Traill 1851: 104).

J. Sepp and M. de Vogüé noted that the Double Gate consists of two aches (doorways) leading to the big entrance hall where the vaults are supported with a big central column; at the of this entrance hall there are two parallel passages divided with a row of pillars  and leading to the upper platform. The central column (probably, a monolith) is quite squat (4 meters), without a pedestal; its top is a simple bulb in the form of a basket decorated with acanthus ornament (Sepp 1863: I 122; De Vogüé 1864: 8).

The plan of the Double Gate with inner dimensions mentioned

We can also find a description of the Double Gate in the Antiquities of the Orient unveiled (1875), «Originally the doors were 18 feet wide and 20 high. In the inside there is an entrance hall 50 feet long and 40 wide, having in the centre a column 21 feet high and 6 feet in diameter, of a single block of limestone. Its capital is ornamented with large leaves, finely sculptured in stone, but not in any architectural order; and resting on this capital are the springs of four arches, which support four domes forming the ceiling of the room. It has been Romanized by four white marble columns which adorn the doorway.

From this entrance hall a flight of nine stone-steps (in the midst of which stands a stone pillar oval, 6 feet high by 4 feet in diameter) leads up to a passage 259 feet long, which is divided by piers, pillars, and a wall» (1875: 93–94). Besides, Charles Warren tells about the Entrance to the Tomb of Aaron's Sons, at South End of Double Passage below the al-Aqsa Mosque and about the Standing Place of Elias, east side of Double Gate (1884: 167–168).

The Double Gate in the Umayyad period.
Reconstruction by Meir Ben-Dov (1972: 114)

J. T. Barclay, J. Fergusson and other early representatives of Templar school maned this gate “The Huldah Gates” connecting it with the ancient Jewish Temple. L. F. de Saulcy in his Atlas marked this gate as “Herodian” (1853: III, 2). Ch. Clermont-Ganneau was passionately searching for the fragments of Herod colonnade in the vaulted gallery, «I should myself be inclined to recognise another of these gigantic columns from Herod's porticos in the great shaft in the subterranean passage of El-Aksa (the Double Gate) which supports the four elegantly carved stone cupolas, and whose origin has caused so much discussion» (ARP I 258).

However, E. Pierotti looking at these Romanized columns dated them, as well as the next the Triple Gate, back to the times of Justinian I Emperor, and the pointy arch in the eastern part of the Southern Wall – to the period of Crusaders (1864 II, Plate XI, XX). We should note that the researchers of the 19th century supposed the Nea church built by Justinian, was located in the southern part of the Haram area, approximately in the place of the al-Aqsa Mosque (Fergusson 1847: 117). In fact, the Byzantine Christians did not endue with holiness the territory of the former “pagan” Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and even (according to some date) they made a landfill out of it.

«I made several excavations in front of it, — Pierotti comments the Double Gate, — like those at the south-east corner, and after digging 10 or 12 feet through the rubbish, came upon the foundations laid in the age of Solomon, but could not discover anything to prove that a gate had then existed on this spot» (1864: I 70).

The entrance hall of the Double Gate. The picture of W. Simpson (1871)

The entrance hall of the Double Gate. The picture of W. Simpson (1871)

A Russian traveler D. Smyshlyaev describes the underground gallery under al-Aqsa in 1865 as follows, «Quite big, well dressed stones of the vaults are different in size, what makes you see not a Roman construction. At the southern end of the cave two galleries run one into another; in the spot of the their fusion there is a massive bulky monolith column, and in the line there are two semi-columns leant to the walls. The column caps are decorated with palm trees…A huge size of the stones and the style of the columns show their belonging to the period rather ancient that the Justinian one» (1877: 116). In the second part of the 19th century the Double Gate became an essential part of the excursion route in the Haram esh-Sharif for European travelers. Almost all scientists, writers and artists who came in Jerusalem at that time, visited this place.

«They are now popularly called the Double Gate (the western Huldah Gate) and the Triple Gate (the eastern Huldah Gate)», W. Mare says (1987, 153).

The name “The Huldah Gate” introduced by European researchers of the 19th century, is taken from the Mishnah Temple description (Middot tractate 1:3). However, the description of Mishnah refers to the Jewish Temple of Hasmonean times and is an obvious anachronism. Dan Bahat accepts that «this gate shouldn't be identified with the Mishnaic Huldah Gates» (1999: 49). We don't use this incorrect name.

The eastern doorway of the Double Gate is blocked with stone blocks. The western doorway is not fully blocked, but turned out to be in the inner rooms of the Haram and serves as entrance from an underground passage to the former Templar Keep — Zawiya Khanthaniya, which is now the Library of al-Aqsa.

The current view of the Double Gate from within

The current view of the Double Gate from within

The current view of the Double Gate from within

In 1998 the underground doubled vaulted passageway and the entrance hall of the Gate were modified into Muslims prayer rooms under the name of al-Aqsa al-Qadima or Old chapel of al-Aqsa. The access to the underground galleries for non-Muslims was ceased. Nowadays none of tourists can get into this part of the Haram esh-Sharif.

In the western doorway, which now leads to the al-Aqsa library, there saved two Romanized marble columns. In the eastern doorway you can see a column from only one side, as another column was blocked at the same time as the eastern doorway. There saved a supporting central column in the entrance hall of the Double Gate, but now this column is strengthened with concrete braces.

Templar archeological school, commanding nowadays, asserts that the interior of the Double Gate, it has been claimed, is based largely on the original Herodian layout. The columns and their capitals are all reused, according to this view, whereas the four flat domes with their supporting arches and the central column from which they spring, as well as their respective decorations, must be Herodian in origin. This theory has been repeatedly advocated since the 19th century by various European scholars. It was first raised by J. Fergusson and R. Willis (1847), followed by C. Conder (1879), C. Watzinger (1935), and S. Corbett (1952). Like B. Mazar, M. Ben-Dov, L. Ritmeyer, Sh. Gibson and D. Jacobson, they all held that the extant structure of the Double Gate largely follows the Herodian scheme, constructed to correspond with the layout of Herod's Royal Stoa (Shani and Chen 2001: 1).

So called “Reconstruction of the Double Gate as was in Herod's time” in the illustrated edition of Dan Bahat. This is how Templar school represents one of the two entrances to the Herodian Temple from the Southern side.

Most zealous of the Christian-Jewish Templars claim that even the middle line of the hall of the Double Gate is a “Temple axis” and is directed to the center of the Holy of Holies (Reidinger 2004: 38; Michelson 2016: 24), referring the latter to the rock protrusion in Qubbat as-Sakhra. It is noteworthy that in this “reconstruction” there are absent four marble Romanized columns, which nowadays decorate the doorway of the Double Gate. These columns don't comply with the ideas of Templar school about the “right”, “kosher” gate of  the Jewish Temple; that's why the “reconstructors” deleted them.

«The ceilings of the passageways had decorated domes, — Bahat tells. — The original decorations from the Herodian period have remained on three of them, partly covered with stucco in the style prevalent in Jerusalem at that time. This style can be seen in decorations in burial caves and sarcophagi dating to this period. These included grapevines, clusters of grapes, rosettas and other adornments» (1990: 47).

Below you can see these decorated domes in the entrance hall of the Double Gate and decide to what prospect they are Jewish.

Double Gate. Drawing of interior of southwest dome by De Vogüé (1864: Pl. VI)

Double Gate interior. Photo of 1904

The decoration details of all four domes in the entrance hall of the Double Gate and their layout relative to each other. The north is above, the west is to the left.

Northwestern dome of the Double Gate vestibule, looking south (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 134)

Southeastern dome of the Double Gate vestibule (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 137)

The debates on the dates of the Double Gate or at least the current  entrance hall, which have been lasting since the 19th century, are likely to finish with the work of Raya Shani and Doron Chen who showed that it was Umayyad architecture. This is proven by two Kufic writings on west-facing frieze on top of northern pier of hall, to which an Arabic historian Ibn Kathir who described how caliph Abd al-Málik built two gates, namely the Golden and Double, in Bait al-Maqdis. Consequently, «the Double Gate need not necessarily be a Herodian structure. The double-vaulted vestibule and the domed hall were built almost entirely by the Umayyads» (2001: 1–7).

The researchers came to the following conclusion about the decorated domes, «They all are certainly classical features, but they figure in later periods as well, even in a similar style, which again makes them unreliable as chronological references. They could in fact just as well be Umayyad, considering that the first type of decorative band is also found on the Umayyad archivolt decorating the south facade of the Double Gate and in the Dome of the Rock» (2001: 18).

Though Shani and Chen didn't deny the ideas of Templar school about the Herodian basement of the Double Gate, however, the school felt threatened with researches of this kind. The school could not let any variances from the prior directions accepted in the 19th century or even in the Middle Ages. If we follow Shani and Chen, we can reach absolutely any idea and doubt centuries-old stories about a gigantic Herodian Temple, which supposedly occupied all Haram area.

That is why the work of Shani and Chen was exposed to critics. Recently an Israeli researcher Orit Peleg-Barkat decided to prove that the current interior of the entrance hall of the Double Gate should be dated to the same Herodian period and, consequently, refer confidently this gate to the Second Temple. Upon that, the presence of two Kufic writings can be explained with the fact that they were supposedly added by Umayyad builders when they were reconstructing the original Herodian Gates.

«The vestibule’s walls were originally built in the Herodian style, while subsequent to the Herodian period, a decision was made to give the walls a smoother appearance by chiseling out the central boss on the ashlar blocks. It seems reasonable to assume that this chiseling work was done in the Umayyad period, during restoration works on the passageway, when the vaults continuing to the north were rebuilt... The use of ashlars with drafted margins around a central boss, typical of the Herodian Temple Mount, in homogenous and uniform courses in the construction of the lateral walls of the vestibule, points to their Herodian date... Although Umayyad modifications (removal of the central bosses from the ashlars), as well as more recent application of cement, somewhat changed the appearance of the walls, the fact remains that they are originally Herodian» (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 143–146).

In her reconstruction plan, Peleg-Barkat added two more rooms with four domes to two existing short vaulted spaces with two shallow domes in the entrance hall of the Double Gate, so that the whole construction would comply with width of so-called Herodian Royal Stoa. This portico, according to Templar school, was in the place of the current al-Aqsa Mosque. We should pay attention that this “reconstruction” also lacks four Romanized columns which decorated the doorway of the Double Gate.

What did the sources of the Southern Gate of the ancient Jewish Temple say? According to Flavus Josephus, «but the fourth front of the Temple, which was southward, had indeed itself gates in its middle, as also it had the Royal Stoa» (Antiquities, XV 11.5 [411]). In other text Josephus reports, «the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four» (War, V 5.2 [198]). Thus, the Southern side of the Temple had 4 entrances or four gates (πύλας). Though Josephus doesn't report that the gate in the southern part had a form of underground passageways with stairs to climb up to the Sanctuary esplanade. But it wouldn't be too much to describe such an innovative architectural idea, which was unnoticed in other Herodian constructions.

We should also highlight that almost all modern “reconstructions” of the Southern wall of the Herod Temple depict only two entrances, which are taken for the current Double and Triple Gates of the Haram esh-Sharif. To mark two more gates described by Josephus Flavus seems to be an unsolvable problem for modern reconstructors. Shouldn't we indeed count for separate gates the arches and doorways of the Double and Triple gates, which in total make not four, but five! As we have already discussed when talking about the square form of the ancient Jewish Temple, nothing reveals the religious fantasies of the supporters and followers of Templar school as simple and clear guidelines of primary sources.

Let us share another thought in favor of the Umayyad origin of the Double Gate and the underground passageway under the al-Aqsa Mosque. Templar school offered a reconstruction of the southern part of the Herod Temple in which there is so called Royal Stoa (38,8 meters wide) along the Southern Wall (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 97). Whereas the length of the underground passageway from the Double Gate to the stairs leading to the Sanctuary surface is 87 meters! According to the Templar school, the Ancient Jews would reach the surface of the Sanctuary much further to the north from the Royal Stoa. It is also difficult to identify this passage with any of the inner constructions of the Temple. To the contrary, if the Double Gate and the underground passageway were made by the Umayyads together with the Haram esh-Sharif establishment, thus it is obvious that the passageway is connected with the northern façade wall of the al-Aqsa Mosque. It means that the underground passageway was built given the dimensions of the al-Aqsa Mosque. In times of Umayyads the dimensions from north to south were about the current ones (83 meters), whereas from west to east — 115 meters. We will refer to these dimensions one more, when we will discuss the underground passageway from the Triple Gate (see n. 8).

In the reconstruction of the southern part of the Herod Temple, which is being backed up by Templar school (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 110), the exit from the underground passageway is not connected to anything, what shows the farfetchedness of such construction.

In fact, the exit from the subterranean passageway is connected 
with the northern façade wall of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Longitudinal sectional plan of the al-Aqsa Mosque with a subterranean passageway taken from the book of Pierotti (1864: II, Pl. XXIV). F. Aperture in the Wall leading to Subterranean Passage on the West; G. Walled-up Door; H. Monolith.

However, the representatives of Templar school can comment this as follows, «The Double Gate was refurbished in the Umayуad period, and the Herodian tunnel was elongated to account for the dimensions of the Aqsa Mosque» (Milwright 2016: 28). Others think that the passageway was extended northwards during the reconstruction after 1033 earthquake (Gonen 2003: 34). It's obviously the way to identify the supposed exit from the underground passage with the dimensions of the Herodian Royal Stoa which was supposed to be in this part of the current Haram complex.

Charles Warren reported about this, «This double tunnel at the present extends for 260 feet under the Aksa before it opens on to the Sanctuary, but from the drains and ducts found on the surface, under and alongside the present Aksa, and from the fact of the masonry of the tunnel changing at 190 feet, it is evident that this tunnel originally opened into the Sanctuary at 190 feet from the south wall. The same was found with the double tunnel leading from the Triple Gate. In building the Aksa Mosque it was necessary to extend the passage to 260 feet, and to cut down a portion of the ramp to a more gentle slope to prevent its coming to the surface too soon» (1884: 167).

According to this bold assumption, exists from these two “original Herodian passages” to the surface should be approximately 25–40 meters northwards from the Southern Wall (according to Warren — 58 meters). But there is no traces of these exists found on the surface so far, and this hypothesis of Templar school doesn't find any archeological proof.

The reconstruction of the passage to the Double Gate 
during the Umayyad period (Ben-Dov 1973: 80)

Can an early Islamic passage from the Double Gate reproduce a more ancient building, which used to be in this place? It can, but only in one case: if the current building of the al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, is based on the foundation of more early building of previous time; this building was similar to the al-Aqsa Mosque in size and function. The Herodian Royal Stoa described by Flavus Josephus, doesn't suit here. A more probable prototype is a building of the Temple Jupiter Capitolinus, built by the Romans in the southern part of the Haram area. And all this Complex complies in size with the Haram esh-Sharif, or, to be more precise, is a foundation of the Muslim construction. In this case the length of the underground passageway from the Double Gate to the exit to the surface makes sence: this passage would lead to the platform right in front of the Temple of Jupiter.

Roman builders often built subterranean vaulted passages

Roman builders often built subterranean vaulted passages. The passageways of the Roman Circus in Tarragona and the Roman Colosseum in El-Jem have the dimensions and functions similar to the underground passages from the Double and Triple Gates. Though these passages are not doubled. The Roman engineers were familiar with an architectural construction, which let people climb up to the surface of any building with an inner staircase. One could get to the platform of Minerva Temple in Assisi through two doors in the Forum wall, from where to climb up the side stairs to the temenos.

Under the corners of the platform of the Great Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek there are huge subterranean vaulted passages. Their purpose id not clear. The passages are 120 meters long, 5 meters wide and 6 meters high. One ran under each side of the courtyard, and a third joined the first two perpendicularly. Over the corridors along each side were alcoves, niches, and exedrae (semi-circular benches), all decorated with statuary and lined with columns. There were eight chambers with doors (La Boda 1996: 99).

Outside Double Gate sone can see two richly decorated crossbars of Umayyad times, when the Haram entrance from the southern side was functioning ( “an imitation of  Byzantine style” — Bahat 1990: 89). «It seems very probable that the gateway at first was covered only by the lintels, and perhaps relieving arches, that at a later period the cornice and ornamented arch were added», one of the first researchers of Jerusalem noted (Wilson 1886: 39).

The western part of these crossbars was closed because of the Keep building adjacent to the Southern Wall. Archeologists think that this Keep (or a Donjon) was built by the Crusaders, namely the Templars to protect the Haram complex from the South. Thus, they blocked the entrance to the Haram through the Double Gate, while its eastern part was mured. Probably, the Triple Gate was blocked with stone blocks at the same time, we will consider this further.

In front of the Double Gate, under the walkway, was a cistern. These steps lead to the cistern.

This tunnel led from in front of the monumental stairway to the Double Gate. Photo of 1974.

That south of the Double Gate a subterranean tunnel, that led lfrom in front of the monumental stairway to the Double Gate to deep below the underground passageway of this gate. There were niches in its walls for holding oil lamps (Mazar 1978: 236). These tunnel were closed off after thorough investigation.

The researchers compare this Double Gate with so-called “Golden gate” in the Eastern Wall of the Haram (doubled as well!) (Pierotti 1864: I 69; Wilson 1886: 39). The latter was created in times of Umayyads, as it has the same style; and the Arabs called them the Gate of Mercy (Bahat 1990: 79). Like the entrance hall of the Double Gate, the inner space of the Golden Gate is a doubled vaulted room divided with a few columns. In both cases, the walls are smooth and similarly articulated by broad, slightly protruding pilasters capped by profiled capitals, from which the supporting arches of the domes spring. The general dimensions of these gates are quite similar, up to the width of the doorways.

«The outer width of the side doorway in the Double Gate is 1.85 m, significantly only one centimeter less than the width of the side doorway in the Golden Gate of 1.84 m.3 0 This fact by itself is conclusive proof of the close link between the designs of the Double Gate and the Golden, Gate. The measured length of 1.85 m equals 6 Bethlehem feet (BF, one BF equals 0.3089 m). This, too, is of cardinal importance, since the length of 6 BF figures as the planning module in the designs both of the Dome of the Rock and of the Golden Gate. We can thus conclude that all three buildings belong to the same-the Umayyad period» (Shani and Chen 2001: 7).

According to Nasir Khusraw, «It is said to be that of Hamzah ibn 'Abd al Mutallib, the Prophet's uncle — peace be upon him! who once seated himself here with his shield on his back, and leaning against the wall, left the mark of the same thereon» (Safarnama, p. 78). Now this trace is not visible anywhere, but it probably was in the western part of the Double Gate, which was covered with the Templar building.

6. The stairway near the Double Gate

It is clear that the date of the Double Gate depends on the date of the large monumental stairway leading to it. These constructions are connected with each other and appeared simultaneously.

This stairway, excavated in 1971 (Davar, 14.07.1971), of thirty steps is 64 metres wide, paved with smoothly trimmed stones, and its foundation steps are cut into the bedrock.

According to modern researchers who follow the Templar tradition, «the large stairway leading to the Double Gate is Herodian: the reconstructed elements are cruder than the ancient stones which are still in the place» (Murphy-O'Connor 2008: 113).

This stairway indeed resembles large stairways of the Temple of Jupiter and Bacchus in Baalbek

Can we date the stairway and the Double Gate to the pre-Muslim period? Was this gate in the Roman Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus at times of Aelia Capitolina? This stairway indeed resembles large stairways of the Temple of Jupiter and Bacchus in Baalbek. It has the same alternation of a few short steps changing one large — so that the climbing up could have a rest.

The major part of the stairway is a modern reconstruction, with an open historian part in the foot of the stairs. One can see scuffed marks on the steps.

To be continued


  1. Поздравляю! Звамечательное исследование - скрупулёзное и доказательное. Вообще, для большинства - это настоящая сенсация.Как всегда - блестяще.

    1. Благодарю за высокую оценку. Стараюсь держать научную планку на соответствующеей высоте. Вообще-то я ещё и 1/10 не сказал. Самое потрясающее - впереди.