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Southern Wall

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Title: Southern Wall  
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Subject: Temple Mount, Walls of Jerusalem, Jewish Quarter (Jerusalem), Restoring Courage tour, Royal Stoa (Jerusalem)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Southern Wall

Eastern portion of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount

The Southern Wall is a wall at the southern end of the Temple Mount and the former southern side of the Second Temple (also called Herod's Temple) in Jerusalem. It was built during King Herod's expansion of the Temple Mount platform southward on to the Ophel.


The Southern Wall is 922 feet in length. Herod's southern extension of the Temple Mount is clearly visible from the east, standing on the Mount of Olives or to a visitor standing on top of the Temple mount as a slight change in the plane of the eastern wall, the so-called "Straight Joint."[1] Herod's Royal Stoa stood atop this southern extension.[1] The enormous retaining wall is built of enormous blocks of Jerusalem stone, the face of each ashlar (block) is edged with a margin, the boss is raised about 3/8" above the surrounding margins. The unmortared blocks are so finely fitted together that a knife blade cannot be inserted between the ashlars.[1]

An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. They were excavated after 1967 by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar and are the northernmost extension of the Jerusalem pilgrim road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, collectively called the Huldah Gates. These are the steps that Jesus of Nazareth[1][2] and other Jews of his era walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. [1] The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and "well-preserved."[3] The steps that lead to the triple gate were mostly destroyed.[3] / The risers are low, a mere 7 to 10 inches high, and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk with a stately, deliberate tread.[1] The pilgrims entered the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall.[4][1] Together, the double and triple gates are known as the Hulda Gates, after the prophetess Huldah.[1]

Pilgrim steps leading to the Double Gate

The present iteration of the Triple Gates is not Herodian. The only Herodian element visible form the outside is the doorjamb on the bottom of the left-hand arch.[1] The Double Gate is substantially concealed by a Crusader-era addition to the Temple Mount. Only half of the right-hand arch of the double gate is visible today from the outside. [1] Over the part of the right-hand Herodian arched doorway that is visible is an ornate, decorative half-arch dating to the Umayyad period (661–750 CE).[1] Just above it, the stub of an Herodian relieving arch is visible.[1]

Inside the Temple Mount, much of the original staircase and the arched, elaborately carved Herodian ceilings survive.[1] According to archeologist Meir Ben-Dov, "On his way in and out of the Temple, Jesus must have walked here."[2]

The domed ceilings of the great staircases are carved with elaborate floral and geometric designs.[1] The internal parts of the Herodian Double Gate survive, although the waqf rarely permits visitors to see it.[1] Unlike the austere exterior gate, the interior of the gateway is elaborately decorated with ornately carved columns and ornamented domes. Two pairs of domes and their elaborate, surrounding columns survive intact.[1] Intricately carved vines, rosettes, flowers and geometric patterns cover "every inch" of the "impressive" entry to the ancient Temple.[1]


Eastern set of Hulda gates

In a post-1967 dig led by archaeologists Benjamin Mazar and Meir Ben-Dov, it was discovered that the Hulda gates led into a grand staircase and served as the principal entrance to the temple in the Roman period.[5]

During the post-1967 digs, an elaborate group of Umayyad administration buildings and palaces were uncovered just outside the Southern Wall.[6] They have been carefully preserved and are now part of an archaeological park.[6] The Umayyad Caliphate is understood to have repaired damage to the Huldah Gates and Pilgrim stairs caused by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, in order to use them for access to the newly built Dome of the Rock.[6]

Repair work

In the early 21st century, a new bulge was noticed in the Southern Wall, threatening the structural integrity of the masonry. Unauthorized underground construction of the el-Marwani Mosque was cited as the cause.[7] In a compromise between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim Waqf that manages the property, it was decided that Jordan would manage the repairs.[7] The Jordanian repair, visible as a bright, white patch in the photo above, has been criticized as "unsightly", an "eyesore", and a "terrible job" because it is out of keeping with the common practices of historical restoration in being of a lighter color and smoother surface than the original stone.[7] The Jordanian repair crew also left two construction scaffolds hanging over the edge of the wall. One of the hanging scaffolds is visible in the photo above.[7]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Shanks, Hershel (1995). Jerusalem, an Archaeological Biography. Random House. pp. 141–151.  
  2. ^ a b Moshe, Janet Mendelsohn (June 1, 2001). "Walking through Jerusalem 2,000 Years Ago". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affair, Israel Magazine-On-Web. 
  3. ^ a b Mazar, Eilat (2002). The Complete Guide to the Temple Mount Excavations. Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication. pp. 55–57.  
  4. ^ Har-El, Menashe (2004). Golden Jerusalem. Gefen Publishing House. pp. 228–242.  
  5. ^ Rubinstein, Danny (September 12, 2004). "Remnants of the Temple?, Not in this Garbage". Haaretz. 
  6. ^ a b c "Umayyad Administration Center and Palaces". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Archaeological Sites in Israel. July 29, 1998. 
  7. ^ a b c d Shanks, Hershel (2010). "First Person: Temple Mount Repairs Leave Eyesores". Biblical Archaeology Review 36 (5). 

External links

  • Jerusalem Archaeological Park
  • Solomon's Stables and the Southern Gates
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