Golden Gate (Jerusalem)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, also the Hebrew name of the Golden Gate is Sha'ar HaRachamim, in Arabic, it is known as Bab al-Dhahabi or Bab al-Rahmah (باب الرحمة), is the only eastern gate of the Temple Mount and one of only two that used to offer access into the city from that side.

Overview

In Arabic, it is known as Bab al-Dhahabi, also spelled as Bab al-Zahabi, meaning "Golden Gate"; another Arabic name is the Gate of Eternal Life. Additionally, for Muslims each of the two doors of the double gate has its own name: Bab al-Rahma, "Gate of Mercy", for the southern one, and Bab al-Taubah, the "Gate of Repentance", for the northern one. Similar to Christians, Muslims generally believe this was the gate through which Jesus as Messiah, entered Jerusalem.

The gate is located in the northern third of the Temple Mount's eastern wall.

Brief History

circa 1300 CE

The date of its construction is disputed and no archaeological work is allowed at the gatehouse, but opinions are shared between a late Byzantine and an early Umayyad date.

The present gate was probably built in the 520s CE, as part of Justinian I's building program in Jerusalem, on top of the ruins of the earlier gate in the wall. An alternative theory holds that it was built in the later part of the 7th century by Byzantine artisans employed by the Umayyad Caliphs. Later on around year 810 CE it was walled up.

The gate was reopened in 1102 CE by the Crusaders. Again, it was walled up by Saladin after regaining Jerusalem in 1187. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt it together with the city walls, but walled it up in 1541, and it stayed that way. The Ottoman Turks transformed the walled-up gate into a watchtower, overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Religious Traditions and Symbolism

circa 1300 CE

Judaism
According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through the eastern Gate, and will appear again when the Anointed One (Messiah) comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3) and a new gate replaces the present one; that might be why Jews used to pray in medieval times for mercy at the former gate at this location, another possible reason being that in the Crusader period, when this habit was first documented, they were not allowed into the city where the Western Wall is located. Hence the name "Gate of Mercy".

Christianity
In Christian apocryphal texts, the gate was the scene of the meeting between the parents of Mary, so that the gate became the symbol of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate became a standard subject in cycles depicting the Life of the Virgin. It is also said that Jesus, riding on a donkey, passed through this gate on Palm Sunday, in fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy concerning the Messiah. The Synoptic Gospels appear to support this belief by indicating Jesus came down from the direction of the Mount of Olives and immediately arrived at the Temple Mount. The Gospel of John alternatively suggests the Pharisees were watching the arrival, possibly from the Temple Mount. Some equate it with the Beautiful Gate mentioned in Acts 3.

Islam
Since the early times of Muslim rule over the holy region Bayt al-Maqdis, some Muslims, such as ‘Ubadah ibn al-Samit, linked the eastern wall of the enclave with the Last Day. According to Ibn Kathir, this wall is not the wall mentioned in the Quranic verse “so a wall will be put up betwixt them, with a gate therein” [57:13], but it was mentioned by some commentators as an example for the clarification of the meaning of the verse. Since that time, this example probably encouraged Muslims to bury their dead immediately outside the eastern wall of the al-Aqsa enclave. In any case, if the name “al-Rahmah” (Mercy) truly exists since the construction of the gate, this suggests that the gate is part of an overall concept based on the idea related to the place, specifically the Rock, as that of the Last Day. Then it can be argued that Bab al-Rahmah symbolises a gate in paradise or an entry to Mercy (Ratrout, 2004, p. 293). Whatever the construction motive of Bab al-Rahmah might have been, it was built during the early Islamic period, and it is the most significant gate of the Haram as-Sharif enclave.

Architecture

circa 1300 CE

Facade
The gate represents a rectangular stonework structure with two decorated facades. Unlike other gates in the al-Aqsa enclave, the eastern facade was not built as part of the wall of the enclave, but was shifted 2.00 metres out off the wall.

Bab al-Rahmah is a double gate. The two bays are reflected in its plan and main elevations; two doorways are followed by a double passage covered by three pairs of domes. Originally, the eastern facade of Bab al-Rahmah has two large doorways, separated by a column. Each doorway measures 3.90 metres in width, supporting a semicircular arch with a decorated frieze.

circa 1300 CE

Gatehouse
The gate-house, which is accessed from the Temple Mount by descending a wide flight of stairs leading into it, and where the current ground floor is built in the shape of a rectangle measuring 24 metres (79 feet) x 17 metres (56 feet) (exterior wall measurements), is surrounded by walls, the length of which space being divided by a row of columns forming two equal divisions. At the ground level can be seen the top of an ancient arch (the lower stones still buried underground), the existence of which leads to the conclusion that the original ground level was much lower than what it is today.

circa 1300 CE

Interior
On the ground floor level a vaulted hall is divided by four columns into two aisles, which lead to the Door of Mercy, Bab al-Rahma, and the Door of Repentance, Bab al-Taubah. The interior of the gate is suprisingly similar to that of Double Huldah Gate in the southern wall of Temple Mount.

The rectangular domed vestibule, measuring 20.37 metres (66.8 ft) in length and 10.50 metres (34.4 ft) in width (interior wall measurements). At that time, the hall consisted of six shallow domes, which have elliptical shape, two of which were changed later. These domes are separated by arches of an elliptical shape springing from two pilasters at the entrances and two central columns. Each dome in Bab al-Rahmah is constructed over a square plan, so special stones are required to form the successive stone circles that form the dome.

Identification With the Shushan Gate

circa 1300 CE

Model of the Eastern gate or the possible Shushan Gate in the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. Evidently the name of this gate was the "Eastern Gate," and that it had on it a shape signifying Shushan. If the Golden Gate does preserve the location of the Shushan Gate, which is only a presumption with no archaeological proof, this would make it the oldest of the current gates in Jerusalem's Old City Walls.

Recent Events

circa

2009
Very recently (February 2019) the gate was opened for Muslim worshipers, which was previously sealed in 2003.

Gallery

See Also

References

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