Tower of David

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Tower of David also known as Jerusalem Citadel, is an ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was during the Byzantine period that the remaining Herodian tower, and by extension the Citadel as a whole, acquired its alternative name, "the Tower of David" after the Byzantines, mistakenly identifying the hill as Mount Zion, presumed it to be David's palace mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:11, 11:1-27, 16:22.

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The minaret is not part of the original complex, it was added much later in 1635 by the Turkish rulers. The citadel that stands today dates to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. It was built on the site of a series of earlier ancient fortifications of the Hasmonean, Herodian-era, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods, after being destroyed repeatedly.

Brief History

Biblical Era
As evidenced by the archaeological discovery of the Broad Wall, King Hezekiah was the first to fortify this area. The city's fortifications demonstrate that by the late eighth century the city had expanded to include the hill to the west of the Temple Mount. The motivation for building the walled fortification was the expected invasion of Judea by Sennacherib. The wall might be the one referred to in Nehemiah 3:8 and Isaiah 22:9-10.

Arab-Muslim Period
After the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 638, the new Muslim rulers refurbished the citadel. This powerful structure withstood the assault of the Crusaders in 1099, and surrendered only when its defenders were guaranteed safe passage out of the city. In 1187, Sultan Saladin captured the city including the citadel. In 1239 the Ayyubid emir of Karak, An-Nasir Dawud, attacked the Crusader garrison and destroyed the citadel. In 1310 the citadel was rebuilt by Mamluk sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun, who gave it much of its present shape.

Ottoman Era
The citadel was expanded between 1537 and 1541 by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, whose architects designed a large entrance, behind which stood a cannon emplacement. The citadel was expanded between 1537 and 1541 by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, whose architects designed a large entrance, behind which stood a cannon emplacement. For 400 years, the citadel served as a garrison for Turkish troops.


Phasael Tower
The Phasael Tower, partially preserved in the Citadel of Jerusalem has been identified as either the Phasael Tower or the Hippicus Tower described by Josephus. Of the original tower itself, some sixteen courses of the original stone ashlars can still be seen rising from ground level, upon which were added smaller stones in a later period, which added significantly to its height. Herod named the tallest of the towers, 145 feet in height, the Phasael in memory of his brother who had committed suicide while in captivity.

al-Qala'a Mosque
Masjid al-Qala'a (مسجد قلعة داود) also known as the Masjid Qala'a e Dawud or Mehrab e Qala'a Daood is a small mosque located within the Qal'a (citadel) of Jerusalem, south of Bab al-Khalil (Jaffa Gate). First definitive mention of the mosque is from 1531-32 CE during it's reconstruction during the reign of Caliph Suleiman. The mosque is closed to public as of December 2015. It is one of the two mosques situated inside the Jerusalem Citadel.

Arab Fortification Tower?
During Muslim rule in the 8th century CE, a new citadel was established. The precise plan of this citadel is not known, as severe damage was caused when the Crusaders built their citadel. It was located in the south-eastern corner of the courtyard. Probably this tower stood at the corner of a new wall, which ran north and south. If we assume that the Arabs left the Hasmonean/Herodian wall as their western limit, the outlines of the Arab fort become clear.

Hasmonean/Herodian Remains
Remains of Hasmonean/Herodian era wall, which was strengthened by Herod and later rulers, runs north-east to south-west through the inner archaeological garden. This segment of the wall which surrounded Jerusalem during Hasmonean times (2nd century BCE runs through the courtyard. This wall was referred to as ”the First Wall” by Josephus Flavius and received its name as it was the first of three walls which surrounded Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. In Herod’s time and in the later Byzantine period, additions were made to the wall.

The Kishle
The Kishle was erected in 1834 by Ibrahim Pasha who governed the Land of Palestine from Egypt. It can be accessed from the dry moat which surrounds the Citadel or through a Crusader era hall in the Museum. Archaeological excavations have unearthed remains from as early as the 6th century BCE and walls from the time of King Herod as well as evidence from the Middle Ages. Of particular importance are the discoveries of a wall and other findings from the First and Second Temple Periods.

circa 1700 CE

Masjid Sayf
The small mosque, known as the Masjid e Sayf, is located within the Qal'a (Citadel ) of Jerusalem, along the southern part of the Citadel's eastern barbican. Sultan Suleyman I ordered a major restoration of the Citadel, including this mosque, in the early Ottoman period, as the mihrab bears the name of Sulayman al-Qanuni (The Lawgiver). Since the second half of the 16th century the mosque underwent some aletrations. In 1151H/ 1738 AD, it was restored by 'Ali Agha, the chief of the Janissaires in the Citadel.

Notable Exhibits

Model of Jerusalem by Stephen Illes
The Model of Jerusalem by Stephen Illes is a 1:500 scale model of the city of Jerusalem, originally exhibited at the Vienna World Fair in 1873 CE. The scale model reflects the city under the later stages of Ottoman rule. It is currently among the several exhibitions at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem. The exhibits depict 4,000 years of Jerusalem's history, from its beginnings as a Canaanite city to modern times. Using maps, videotapes, holograms, drawings and models, the exhibit rooms each depict Jerusalem under its various rulers.

Equestrian Statue of Saladin and Richard
Saladin (right) and Richard the Lionheart (left), King of England, an equestrian statue in front of David Citadel. It is one of the several reliefs installed at and around the Jerusalem Citadel including a 19th century model of Jerusalem, Statue of King David.

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See Also


Points of Interest

Towers and Minarets

Phasael Tower · Minaret () · Ottoman Towers ·

Illes Relief (19th century model of Jerusalem) · Statue of David · Model of Dome of Rock · Equestrian Stautes of Salah al-Din and Richard the Lion Heart · Citadel Model · Crusader Era Jerusalem · Temple Warning Inscription Replica ·


Spice Garden · Moat · The Kishle ·