With this post I hope to learn a bit more about this historic city. Jerusalem means “The City of Peace.” (I know… sadly not even close!) Israel claims it is its capital and a few countries support it like the United States. For most of the world, this is the Holy Capital of the World. It is a place filled with beloved places by the faithful followers of the three major monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For the sake of time I will concentrate only on what is known as The Old City.
The Old City
The Old City is believed to have been inhabited for over 5000 years and has a quadrilateral shape of about 3,000 feet (900 meters) long on each side. All around this shape there is a protective wall built by the Sultan Suleiman I between 1537 and 1541. The length of the wall is about 2.45 miles (4,018 meters), their average height is 39.37 feet (12 meters) and the its average thickness is 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). THe walls contain 34 watchtowers and seven main gates open for traffic, with two minor gates reopened by archeologists.
In 1981, the Jerusalem walls were added, along with the Old City of Jerusalem, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
Gates to enter The Old City:
This gate also known a St. Stephen’s gate, Hebrew: שער האריות, romanized: Sha’ar ha-Arayot, lit. ‘Lions’ Gate’, Arabic: باب الأسباط, romanized: Bab al-Asbat, lit. ‘Gate of the Tribes.’ The start of the traditional Christian observance of the last walk of Jesus from prison to crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa begins at the Lions’ Gate. Carved into the wall above the gate are four lions, two on the left and two on the right. Suleiman the Magnificent had the carving made to celebrate the Ottoman defeat of the Mamluks in 1517. Legend has it that Suleiman’s predecessor Selim I dreamed of lions that were going to eat him because of his plans to level the city. He was spared only after promising to protect the city by building a wall around it.
The Golden Gate (Or Gate of Mercy)
The Golden Gate or Gate of Mercy (Hebrew: שער הרחמים, romanized: Sha’ar Harahamim, lit. ‘Gate of Mercy’; Arabic: باب الذهبي, romnized: Bab al-Dhahabi or al-Zahabi, lit. ‘Golden Gate’) is the only eastern gate of the Temple Mount, and one of only two Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem that used to offer access into the city from the East side. This gate has been sealed since medieval times. Its interior can be accessed from the Temple Mount.
In Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through this gate. Christians and Muslims generally believe that this was the gate through which Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Once inside the Old City, there is a raised platform known as Temple Mount and there are for areas or quarters: The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The muslim Quarter and the Christian Quarter:
Temple Mount is known in Hebrew as Har Ha-Bayit and it is the the holiest site in Judaism. According to Jewish tradition and scripture, the First Temple was built by King Solomon, the son of King David, in 957 BCE, and was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE; however, no substantial archaeological evidence has verified this. The Second Temple was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE, and was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Orthodox Jewish tradition maintains it is here that the third and final Temple will be built when the Messiah comes.
The Temple Mount is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to rabbinical law, there is still some aspect of the divine presence at the site.
Temple Mount is referred to by Muslims today as the “Haram al-Sharif” (“Noble Sanctuary.”) The present site is a flat plaza surrounded by retaining walls (including the Western Wall) that was built during the reign of Herod the Great for an expansion of the temple. The plaza is dominated by three monumental structures from the early Umayyad period – the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain – and four minarets. Herodian walls and gates, with additions from the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods, cut through the flanks of the Mount. Currently, it can be reached through eleven gates, ten reserved for Muslims and one for non-Muslims, with guard posts of Israeli police in the vicinity of each.
The al-Aqsa Mosque
The al-Qibli Chapel, Part of Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam.
According to the Qur’an, Muhammad was transported to al-Aqsa during his Night Journey (Isra and Mi’raj). The Qur’an describes how the prophet was taken by the miraculous steed Buraq from the Great Mosque of Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque (‘”the farthest place of prayer”) where he prayed. The specific passage reads “Praise be to Him who made His servant journey in the night from the sacred sanctuary to the remotest sanctuary.” After Muhammad finished his prayers, the angel Jibril (Gabriel) traveled with him to heaven, where he met several other prophets and led them in prayer. This specific verse in the Quran cemented the significant religious importance of al-Aqsa in Islam.
The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: قبة الصخرة, romanized: Qubbat aṣ-Ṣakhra) is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Its initial construction was undertaken by the Umayyad Caliphate on the orders of Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna in 691–692 CE, and it has since been situated on top of the site of the Second Jewish Temple (built in c. 516 BCE to replace the destroyed Solomon’s Temple), which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The Dome of the Rock is in its core one of the oldest extant works of Islamic architecture.
Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces, although its outside appearance was significantly changed during the Ottoman period and again in the modern period, notably with the addition of the gold-plated roof, in 1959–61 and again in 1993.
Underneath this mosque seats the Foundation Stone or “Holly of Holies” that according to the Talmud is the holiest spot on Earth, the place where the physical and spiritual worlds connected.
The Jewish Quarter
It is an area of 116,000 square meters that lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and stretches from the Zion Gate in the south, along the Armenian Quarter on the west, up to the Street of the Chain in the north and extends to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in the east.
The Western Wall(Wailing Wall)
In Hebrewnthis wall is known as: הַכּוֹתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי, romanized: HaKotel HaMa’aravi, lit. ‘the western wall.’ It the holiest place where Jewish people can pray. The wall is an ancient limestone wall. It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall”. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount.
After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the eastern portion of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. Under Jordanian control Jews were completely expelled from the Old City including the Jewish Quarter, and Jews were barred from entering the Old City for 19 years, effectively banning Jewish prayer at the site of the Western Wall. This period ended on June 10, 1967, when Israel gained control of the site following the Six-Day War. Three days after establishing control over the Western Wall site, the Moroccan Quarter was bulldozed by Israeli authorities to create space for what is now the Western Wall plaza.
In Hebrew: בית הכנסת החורבה, translit: Beit ha-Knesset ha-Hurva, lit. “The Ruin Synagogue”.
This is a historic Orthodox Synagogue that was originally founded in the early 18th century by followers of Judah HeHasid on the ruins of a 15th century synagogue and adjacent to the 14th century Sidna Omar mosque, but was destroyed a few years later in 1721 by Ottoman authorities, for failure of its proprietors to pay back a debt to local Muslims. The plot became known as “The Ruin”, or Hurva, where it lay desolate for 116 years until it was resettled in 1837 by members of the Ashkenazi Jewish community, known as the Perushim. In 1864, the Perushim rebuilt the synagogue, and although officially named the Beis Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the Hurva.
Then the Synagogue was destroyed by the Arabs during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. The current structure dates from 2010 when it was dedicated on March 15th.
If you would like to explore the area with Google Maps, go HERE.
The Cardo (Maximus)
This was a paved road built by the Romans. It was originally a paved avenue approximately 22.5 meters wide (roughly the width of a six lane highway) which ran southward from the site of the Damascus gate, terminating at an unknown point. The Cardo’s most striking visual feature was its colonnade. Simple bases supported monolithic shafts, spaced 5.77 meters apart. The space between them was leased to merchants and craftmen that installed stalls and workshops.
The Broad Wall
The Broad Wall (Hebrew: החומה הרחבה HaChoma HaRechava) is an ancient defensive wall in the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. The wall was unearthed in the 1970s by Israeli archaeologist Nahman Avigad and dated to the reign of King Hezekiah (late eighth century BCE).
The Broad Wall is a massive defensive structure, seven meters thick. The unbroken length of wall uncovered by Avigad’s dig runs 65 meters (71.1 yd) long and is preserved in places to a height of 3.3 metres (3.6 yd).
The Armenian Quarter
It is an area of 0.126 km² or about 14%of the Old City’s total. In 2007, it had a population of 2,424. The Armenian presence in Jerusalem dates back to the 4th century AD, when Armenia adopted Christianity as a national religion and Armenian monks settled in Jerusalem. Hence, it is considered the oldest living community outside the Armenian homeland. Gradually, the quarter developed around the St. James Monastery—which dominates the quarter—and took its modern shape by the 19th century. The monastery houses the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Jerusalem Patriarchate, which was established as a diocese in the 7th century AD.
St. James Cathedral
This Cathedral dates from the 12 century and it is a holy site that relates to both James disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the exterior:
The interior of this Cathedral is so different! I have never seen anything like it…so many hanging lamps?
This is the entrance to the Cathedral:
You can see it in 360 degrees view in Google Maps HERE.
I also learned that Saint James the Great (one of Jesus Disciples) was martyred and later beheaded in the site where this cathedral stands by the order of King Agrippa. His body ended up in Santiago de Compostela by a miraculous journey. This video shows a mass in the church and the burial site of Saint James the Great:
This is the St. James Monastery’s Entrance:
Syriac Orthodox Monastery of Saint Mark (Also Known as St. Mark’s Chapel)
This is one of Jerusalem’s oldest churches also dating from the 12 century. Some people believe, this is where the last supper was held, also where Peter (the Apostle) hid after escaping from the prison cell where he was held after Jesus died.
A piece of Holy Cross in which Lord Christ was crucified and relics of many Saints are preserved in this Monastery. Mary’s baptismal basin, and an image of Virgin Mary painted atributed to the apostle St. Luke can also be viewed in the Church.
This is the center of the Syrian Orthodox (Syriac) community, which was established by the apostle St. Peter. In the 6th century the community was persecuted and its leadership was later reestablished by Jacob Baradaeus; for this reason they are also known as “Jacobites.” (1)
This is the altar:
The Muslim Quarter
This is the biggest of and most populated of the Old City quarters.
It covers 31 hectares (77 acres) and extends from the Lions’ Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the south, to the Damascus Gate—Western Wall route in the west. The population of the Muslim Quarter is 22,000 in 2012. This is a map:
The markets located within this quarter are very special as they date back since pre-Roman times! This is the cotton market, it was rebuilt in 1336 by the Mamluk ruler Emir Tankiz, governor of Damascus:
This is a short video where you can learn a bit more about the Muslim Quarter:
The Christian Quarter
The Christian Quarter is situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate – Western Wall route in the south, bordering on the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders on the Muslim Quarter. The Christian quarter contains about 40 Christian holy places. First among them is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity’s holiest place.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This church was the first Christian Church built by the Romans. It contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is believed by Christians to have been buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula. This church also has the four last stations of the Via Dolorosa.
One amazing fact I learned is that there are six main denominations sharing property over parts of the church! They are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox.
Just inside the church entrance is a stairway leading up to Calvary (Golgotha), traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and the most lavishly decorated part of the church:
This is the Tomb of Jesus also referred to as the Aedicule (It is defined as a shrine with columns and a pediment.)
This diagram shows where these are respect each other:
To visit the church virtually via Google Maps go HERE.
The following video shows not only the places mentioned above but has really interesting facts! This church is incredible! The last 5 minutes of the video when he is walking and showing all the floors in the church made one thing certain for me… I would totally get lost in this church! ^ ^
And this marks the end of this incredible journey through one of the most amazing places on this Earth. I pray I can get there someday! But most of all I hope it can live up to its beautiful name as “The City of Peace.”
Thank you so much for coming along!