THE GOLDEN GATE

James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.
1998

These views are from the Garden of Gethsemene, looking across the Kidron Valley at the Golden Gate and the east wall of Temple Mount.
THEN
NOW

Both photos appear to have been taken from the same location - towards the back of the Garden of Gethsemene. The primary difference between 1952 (above, left) and 1990 is the growth of the olive trees inside the garden. The terraced trees below the Golden Gate appear to be approximately the same size in both photos.

The Golden Gate, also called the Mercy Gate, is probably the oldest visible gate in the wall around the Old City. The wall itself was last rebuilt by Suleiman in 1540. Dates for the construction of the Golden Gate vary from the late 5th century to the early 7th century.

Dan Bahat, former district archaeologist for Jerusalem, in a lecture at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles on 9 November 1998, suggested the year 629 AD, during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, as the date of construction.

Inside the current gate are two pillars from an earlier period, indicating the presence of a prior gate at the same location.

The Golden Gate has been sealed for many centuries and it is said that it will remain so until the coming of the Messiah. According to tradition the Messiah will enter Jerusalem from the east through the Golden Gate.

Hoping to prevent the redemption of the Jews, tradition says the Arabs blocked the Golden Gate with great stones. They then built a cemetery in front of the gate thinking that the Messiah could not set foot in a cemetery and therefore would not be able to enter Temple Mount.

Dates for when the gate was sealed vary from before the Crusader period to the time of Suleiman. Dan Bahat suggested a date of 1219 when most of the walls surrounding Jerusalem were razed by the Muslim caliph al-Malik al-Mu'azzam 'Isa.

View larger versions of the 1952 and 1990 photos:

The 1952 photo was taken by Dr. Marshall Welles. The 1990 photo is by the author. Photos may be reproduced only with the consent of the author.