Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Haram area in Jerusalem. Southern Wall, 7–12

(Continued. Start)

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.

7. A Latin inscription on the ashlar

Near the Double Gate in the Southern Wall, in the Umayyad rows there is a reused stone block with the Emperor Antoninus Pius mentioned on it. A Latin inscription which is turned upside down and with regular abbreviations says:

To Titus Ael[ius] Hadrianus
Antoninus Aug[ustus] Pius
the F[ather] of the F[atherland], Pontif[ex], Augur
D[ecreed] by the D[ecurions]

A reused stone block with Latin inscription

In the photo there is a Roman ashlar which we turned to make the Latin inscription readable

L. F. de Saulcy was the first who published this inscription in 1853 (III 1853, Pl. XXIV). Researchers suppose not without reason that this ashlar originally belonged to the basement of Antonius Pius monument, which was set within the Temple of Jupiter by a Decurions decree of Aelia Capitolina. In 333 the Pilgrim of Bordeaux mentioned two monuments of Emperor Hadrian. Researchers think one of these monuments was honored to Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Puis who continued the construction of Aelia Capitolina.

In the CIIP, where the inscription follows number 718, it is reported that «the stone block is inserted, upside down, high in the Southern wall of the Umayyad palace on the Haram (Temple Mount).» This is an inaccuracy. This ashlar is located directly in the Southern Wall of the Haram, and not in the southern wall of the Umayyad Palace. In addition, the Umayyad palace itself is not located on the territory of the Haram, but outside. This inaccuracy entailed a following  reasoning in the CIIP: «it since the findspot of the base high in the southern wall of the Umayyad palace on the Haram need not imply that the statue itself was originally erected on the Temple Mount» (CIIP I.2: 18). This is partly true: the statue was not necessarily located on the territory of the current Haram. But the indication of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux to two imperial statues in this territory makes such a location very probable.

Umayyad builders extracted this ashlar from the ruins dated to Aelia Capitolina period and used it in their wall course as an ordinary stone block. Whereas they didn't give any value to the inscription of “infidel Francs” didn’t wanted anybody who would visit the Haram esh-Sharif to read this turned upside down writing.

In the meantime, this ashlar has a great historical value. It should be in the museum dedicated to Aelia Capitolina. But there is no such museum in Jerusalem, and nobody intends to establish it. The commanding Templar school doesn't need such museum, it has another purposes.

One cannot say that the Roman period in history of Jerusalem doesn't interest researchers at all. Recently there appear more and more works about Aelia Capitolina: Belayche 1997, Magness 2000, Bieberstein 2007, Friedheim 2007, Mazar 2011, Newman 2014, Janczewski 2016 are among them. Not long ago an Israeli researcher and archeologist Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah released a detailed book: “Aelia Capitolina – Jerusalem in the Roman Period” (2019).

Nevertheless about three centuries of history of the Holy City are still least studied. It is besides the fact that the foundation of the Old City like the Haram esh-Sharif was established precisely in the Roman period, and all further construction continued and developed Aelia Capitolina. A big amount of Latin inscriptions of that period testifies that the city was thoroughly Romanized (Weksler-Bdolah 2019: 201). For a long time, even in Byzantine period, the city's official name was still Aelia. This name in the form of “Iliyā” (إلياء) was transferred to Muslim rulers of the city (El-Awaisi 2011).

8. The Triple Gate

From the Double to the Triple Gate there is a modern pavement for comfort of visitors of the Archeological park (Baruch and Reich 2016: Fig. 11). This pavement ends with a platform and a stairway near the Triple Gate, which is 80 m from the Double Gate and 90 m from the south-eastern corner of the Haram Complex. The width of the Triple Gate (three arches altogether) is 20,7 m.

The name of the Triple Gate during the early Muslim period is not very much clear. Dan Bahat supposes that Ibn al-Faqih called it the Gate of the Valley (Bab al-Wadi), Nasir Khusraw named it the Gate of the Spring (Bab al-'Ain), al-MaqdisiMihrab Maryam Gates (Bahat 1996, 76–78). But none of the Muslim resources mentioned that there is an underground passage in this place, like the one from the Gate of the Prophet (the Double Gate).

 The Triple Gate

«The platform [of Temple] has on the south side a wide entrance through three large arches connected together by two columns, and on the same side it has another entrance wider than the first», John of Würzburg wrote in 1172 (Description, p. 20). He obviously meant the Double and Triple Gates, but only the Double one has columns; the Triple Gate probably has never had columns.

The Triple Gate as well as the Double Gate some time ago was leading through the underground vaulted passage to the stairway, which the religious used to climb up the Sanctuary. Besides, the entrance hall of the Triple Gate adjoined a spacious vaulted room (approx. 3390 sq.m.), historically known as the “Solomon's Stables”; since 1996 el-Marwani Prayer Hall has been functioning here.

As well as the Double Gate, the Triple Gate was blocked, there hasn't been any entrance for a long time already. Regardless the triple arch in this place there was a double vaulted passage like the one from the Double Gate, absolutely similar to this in size (length, width, height). Some representatives of Templar's school think that «it seems that originally both of them were double gates and that the easternmost of the three openings of the Triple Gate was added only in the Middle Ages» (Netzer 2008: 174).

The Triple Gate. Photo from the album of Ch. Wilson (1865: 12) This photo clearly shows the border between two wall rows: Umayyad rows and Mamluk is below, Ottoman is above.

The Triple Gate from the inner side of the Haram esh-Sharif. 
Image from the book of Barclay (1857: 507)

The inner side view to the central arch of the Triple Gate. Taken from the video of 2018

The plan of the Triple Gate, with inner dimensions mentioned

The Triple Gate, by all accounts, appeared in the same period as the Double Gate. Obviously, the Double, Triple Gates, and their underground passageways is a united architectural plan. The same way as of the Double Gate, the underground passageway of the Triple Gate was made taking into account the dimensions of the al-Aqsa Mosque. The thing is that in the time of Umayyads the building of the mosque was two- or threefold wider than the present building (83 x 56 m). Al-Maqdisi informs that this building had 15 prayer passageways, so called naves (Le Strange, 1890: 98). As a Christian pilgrim Arculf said (approx. 680), the building held 3 thousand people. There is reason to believe that the Umayyad mosque was approximately 115 m from west to east, and from north to south had the current size. In this case, the north-eastern corner of the mosque was nearly in the same place, where the underground passage came from the Triple Gate to the surface.

Thus, there were three entrances to the Haram from the south side in the Umayyad period: one was via the bridge (see n.3), and two underground, the central (the Double Gate) and the eastern (the Triple Gate). All three entrances were connected with the al-Aqsa Mosque. The western entrance led to the most western of all 15 naves, the central one was oriented towards the central nave; the eastern entrance led to the most eastern nave of the Umayyad mosque. That was the harmony of the early Muslim architecture.

Anyway, the Triple Gate differs in construction from the Double Gate. The decoration of the entrance hall is not so opulent as that of the Double. It's no coincidence that the Triple Gate never saw so many European visitors, writers and artists, as it was seen in the underground passageway of the al-Aqsa Mosque.

E. Pierotti dated the Triple Gate to the times of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I: «We see three plain round-headed arches, supported by four pilasters, whose masonry differs both from the older and newer work in the immediate neighbourhood. Their general character is Roman, and I believe them to have been built at the time of Justinian, to communicate with the vaults within the Haram» (1864: I 69).

A lower pre-Islamic row of large ashlars adjoints the left (western) side of the first (western) arch of the Triple Gate. The last of these ashlars has a decorative processing: it is called a piece of the western doorjamb of the original Triple Gate. The commanding nowadays Templar's archeological school refers this doorjamb to the Herodian Second Temple, anyway noting that “the whole plan and the form of the Herodian Gate are unknown” (Baruch and Reich 2016: 45; comp. Seligman 2007: 37). We refer this doorjamb to the construction of Roman times, the times of largescale works preceding to the Muslim construction.

The finishing of this doorjamb resembles doorjambs and other architectural elements of the Roman temple in Kadesh. It is worth noting, the façade has three carved and ornamented entrances: a central opening symmetrically flanked by two smaller ones (Fischer and Ovadiah 1984: 151–152). Such carved finishing of the doorways is characteristic for Roman building in Palestine. Historians suppose that the temple in Kadesh was established in 117 AD in times of Hadrian, who later founded a Roman colony Aelia Capitolina that changed the Biblical Jerusalem.

On the left: the western doorjamb of the Triple Gate. The image from de Vogüé's book (1864: 11). On the right: the ruins of the Roman temple in Kadesh. The image from “The survey of Western Palestine” (SWP I 227).

If the establishment of the Triple Gate one can refer to the Roman period, the form of the current gate is more likely Umayyad. The arches of the Triple Gate are rounded up at the top. These rounded up arches are typical for early Islamic building, that proves the Umayyad palace (Qasr) in Amman, the palace of caliph al-Walid I in Anjar; the palaces of caliph Hisham — Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi and Qasr al-Hayr ash-Sharqi in Syria.

The Triple Gate and the Umayyad Qasr al-Hayr ash-Sharqi, the palace of caliph al-Walid I in Anjar.

There is a Hebrew inscription for Joseph the rabbi from Mutaref (a city in Syria) on the western doorjamb. L. F. de Saulcy was the first who published this inscription in 1872 and doubted that it was ancient (1872: II 17). Modern researchers usually date this inscription to 750 AD, when a Muslim dynasty of Abassid was ruling and the Jewish could worship their destroyed temple only at the southern wall of the Haram esh-Sharif (Wiemers 2010: 158; Ben-Dov 1986: 27). This inscription was made by Jewish pilgrims.

The Hebrew inscription on the western doorjamb

The major part of the Triple Gate is made of large reddish ashlars of the Umayyad period. Later the gate was blocked with small stone blocks, obviously, from another quarry. The Templars were likely to do it at the same time when they were blocking the entrance through the Double Gate and erected a keep adjacent to the Southern wall.

Now the original ideas about the Herodian basement of the Triple Gate are being revised. «The tunnels which exist today, leading from the Double and Triple Gates, are arched constructions from a later period and we can not assume that at the time of the Second Temple there were such tunnels», — Tuvia Sagiv says  (The Hidden Secrets of the Temple Mount).

The researchers so far do not decline the Templar's tradition, but they more and more emphasize the Umayyad construction, calling it “the reconstruction of the walls”. This emphasis is quite telling and promise a thorough revision of the outdated Templar's ideas in the future. «The existing triple semicircular arched portals with chamfered voussoirs almost certainly belong to the Umayyad reconstruction of the walls of the Haram esh-Sharif... The vaults of this passageway are integral to the Umayyad period of construction», — Jon Seligman remarks (Seligman 2007: 37, 41). In general, modern researchers agree that everything else of what we see today is later, Muslim-period work (Murphy-O'Connor 2008, 104; 113). In fact, this conclusion can be referred to the whole Southern Wall.

In the tunnel below the Triple Gate undeground passageway in 1974. The water that overflowed from an underground cistern was channelled out through this tunnel. This is the so-called underground cistern No. 10 was part of drainage system of the Haram platform.

As for the stairway in front of the Triple Gate, it is totally a modern Israeli construction. It is difficult to say how the stairs historically looked like in this place. The photos of this area taken before 1967, before the Israeli excavations in Ophel, show that it was all covered with cultural layer, while bushes and soil were coming up right to the feet of the Triple Gate.

Israeli archeological excavations found a few big, badly cracked stone plates laying under the Triple Gate. As soon as these plates had been extracted, it was found that they were based on two layers of knockings of chip stone, covered with a thin coat of gray plaster (Baruch and Reich 2016: Fig. 12). Further to the south from the Gate ruins of various buildings were excavated, mainly of the Umayyad period.

Photo of the excavations near the Triple Gate in 1990s.

As archeologists think, built in Ophel Umayyad buildings clearly obviated the Herodian monumental stairway which had led to the Triple Gate, changing the approach to the gate or more probably putting part of it out of commission (Baruch and Reich 2016: 93). Following this idea, we can conclude that the Umayyads richly decorated the Double Gate and the underground passageway from it, but for some reason ignored the Triple Gate, which in fact was a unique architectural ensemble and had the same important function. And at the same time we can clearly observe the Umayyad construction of the Triple Gate. We are likely to consider all pros and contras of archeologists. But we keep on following the idea that the Triple Gate was blocked not by the Muslims, but by those who blocked the Double Gate.

9. The Grot

Under the recently reconstructed stairway near the Triple Gate there appeared a niche looking like a tunnel or a grot. Here we can see that the reconstructed stairway is fixed with metal rails placed perpendicular to the wall. Right under the stairway the remains of some vaulted building were excavated.

Archeological reports call this room a “vault”, «At the Triple Gate a deep vault was discovered under this east-west street. The vault served as support for a stairway which led from the lower plaza to the Triple Gate and then into the Temple area» (Mare 1987: 154).

A “vault” under stairway near the Triple Gate

The Herodian blocks of the Southern Wall are laid right on the rock

In this place one can see that the Herodian blocks of the Southern Wall are laid right on the rock which is exposed 2 meters deep (quite a phenomenal place near the Southern Wall!). It means we see that in this area the Herodian ashlars (of secondary use) make the original course of the Southern wall of the Haram esh-Sharif. It is quite easy to note that in this place the ashlars are badly damaged or affected by corrosion.

Starting from this place the rocky level is sharply going down eastwards and opening new lower rows of Herodian blocks over it, - right up to the south-eastern corner of the Haram area.

10. A pointy arch (Single Gate)

One more pointy arch, similar to the first (see n. 3), also blocked with stone blocks, is located 32 meters from the south-eastern corner of the Southern Wall in the course dated to the Umayyad period and Mamluks. E. Pierotti who toured the Haram complex clockwise, described this attraction as follows, «A few yards from the corner is a doorway with a pointed arch, now walled up, which I consider to have been made at the time of the Crusades, and possibly then called the Gate of the Valley of Jehoshaphat» (1864: I 169).

Ch. Warren calls this arch the Single Gate and notes, «the sill of the Single Gate is at a lower level, but this gate has all the appearance of being quite a modern construction, the entrance found 20 feet lower, and immediately beneath it going far to support the idea that this Single Gate itself was not finished until after a considerable amount of the present debris in Ophel had accumulated» (1871: 93).

Eastern part of the Southern Wall

The Single Gate

This Gate also led to the inner area known as the Solomon's Stables. The idea of Pierotti is still relevant: the majority of researchers follow him and date this Gate to the Crusader times. Jerome Murphy O'Connor writes, «the Single Gate, which was cut by the Templars as a postern and sealed by Saladin in 1187» (2008: 114).

It occurs that the Templars blocked the access to the Sanctuary in the Southern Wall through the Double and Triple Gates and made a separate entrance. It is unclear what guided them. Some think that the Templars wanted to make a quick entrance from the outside of the Haram to the Solomon's Stables where they kept their horses and camels tied by the arches (Harel 2004: 232).

But the biggest secret is how the stairway up to this gate looked like, as in the time of Crusaders this arch was quite high above the surface (currently, after the excavations, the height from the feet to the surface of the Single Gate is 12 meters). Archeologists did not find any remains of a stairway in this place.

The Single Gate. Photo of 1900

However, Dan Bahat remarks about more early period and refers the establishment of the Single Gate to the Fatimids, who (as he supposes) reconstructed the Solomon's Stables after the earthquake in 1033, “as the Triple Gate had been blocked prior to this time” (2001: 129). We remind that in his illustrated book Bahat names the Single Gate, “Bab es-Sitta”. This name was invented by Bahat himself and wasn't used by any Muslim authors. Bahat just translated an English nomination “Single Gate”, that was the name of the Pointy Arch given by European authors of the 19th and 20th centuries, into Arabic, and that gave to the term a look of Muslim antiquity (Bahat 1990: 82).

The plan of the south-eastern part of the Haram esh-Sharif, including the Solomon's Stables, the Triple and Single Gates (Seligman 2007: 36)

While studying Muslim resources, it is impossible to understand whether the Middle ages authors knew about the Single Gate and how they called it. A number of the Muslim writers describe the Gate of the Haram esh-Sharif, but hardly anything from these descriptions can be referred to this attraction of the Southern wall. No other gate of the Holy Complex was so much ignored by the Muslims as the Single Gate was.

We cannot make any clear conclusion about the date, purpose and functioning of the Pointy Arch, called the Single Gate, so far. For this, we need to carry out additional researches inside as well as outside of the Haram esh-Sharif.

Nowadays, the inner side of this Arch turned out to be in the el-Marwani Prayer Hall, into which the Solomon's Stables were transformed. At the southern end of the sixth columns row from the west wherein a mihrab was erected recently. It is likely that so called “Single Gate” was never actually a gate. This Pointy Arch was supporting like the Pointy Arch at the south-western corner (No. 3) of the wall of the Haram esh-Sharif.

11. Tunnels under the Single Gate

A tunnel discovered by Ch. Wilson (1880: 55–57) in 1867 under the Single Gate runs northward for 30 m until it is blocked by debris (Warren 1884: 161; Mazar 1975: 127–128; Ben-Dov 1982: 347). It should be dated to the Crusader remodeling of the space. The sides of the tunnel utilize Herodian masonry in clear secondary use. It has been suggested by Ben-Dov (1982: 346–347) that the tunnel served as a postern escape route, constructed by the Crusaders together with the Single Gate. The use of this tunnel to exit the city could only have been possible after the eleventh century AD, as prior to this date this section of the Haram walls was encompassed within the city fortifications (Seligman 2007: 38).

Longitudinal sectional plan of the tunnel under the Single Gate (Warren 1884b Pl. XXIV)

The entrance to another secret tunnel that ran below Solomon's Stables. Photo of 1974.

This opening is now blocked up.

Inside the tunnel below Solomon's Stables. Photo of 1974.

Tunnel under the Southern Wall east of the Triple Gate (Mazar 1978: Pl. 37)

12. Specific signs on some ashlars near the southeastern corner

The specific signs carved on some Herodian ashlars near the southeastern corner in the Southern and Eastern Walls, which were noted by Ch. Warren, aroused wild imagination among some researchers. Yuval Baruch and Ronny Reich want to see Hebrew letters in these signs (for some reason, turned upside down), which have a sacred meaning (Baruch and Reich 2016b). But chances are equal that these specific signs can be considered as Greek letters, or even Phoenician, as it was believed in the 19th century.

Specific signs on some ashlars near the southeastern corner 
in the Southern Wall (Warren 1884b: Pl. XX)

Specific signs on some ashlars near the southeastern corner
in the Eastern Wall (Warren 1884b Pl. XIX)

In fact, these signs were most likely made by stonemasons for wall builders and indicated to them the correct installation of the stone block. The same signs are found on ashlars in other constructions of that period, they are also on the covers of ossuaries. These signs were probably made by Herodian stonemasons when these ashlars were of primary use.

*  *  *

During the last century and a half the Southern Wall experienced some changes. In the time of repairs in 1890-s a two-domed chapel crowning the Muslim shrine “Cradle of Jesus” in the south-eastern corner was eliminated, and a room with a shrine was remodeled.

In a letter to the Palestine Exploration Fund, Conrad Schick notes that in the early months of 1891 the Waqf authorities cleared earth from Solomon's Stables to the level of the floor. In the process, the internal face of the Single Gate was buried up to the top of the arch, together with mangers that were still visible at that time. Windows were also opened at this time along the upper part of the Southern Wall of the Haram platform, between the Triple Gate and the southeastern corner, allowing light to enter Solomon's Stables. As a result of the leveling of the floor, two courses of an arch spring were exposed at the northern end of the western side of the fifth vault from the west (Seligman 2007: 38).

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

In 1990s, when a el-Marwani Prayer Hall was being set in the Solomon's Stables, narrow gunport windows were transformed into quite wide windows. Above the arches of the Triple Gate windows were also cut out in the wall. Besides, a row of lighters was set on the top of the wall to lighten Ophel.


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