Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

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Encyclopedia
Damascus Gate is the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city's northwest side where the highway leads out to Nablus
Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

; as such, its modern English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 name is Damascus Gate, and its modern Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 name, Sha'ar Shkhem , meaning Shechem Gate, or Nablus Gate. Of its Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 names, Bab al-Nasr means "gate of victory," and Bab al-Amud means "gate of the column." The latter name, in use continuously since at least as early as the 10th century, preserves the memory of a design detail dating to the 2nd century AD Roman era gate.

History


In its current form, the gate was built in 1537 under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman I was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" , for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system...

, the Sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Underneath, remains of a gate dating to the time of the Roman rule of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 in the 2nd century AD have been discovered and excavated. In front of this gate stood a Roman victory column topped with the Emperor Hadrian's image, as depicted on the 6th century Madaba Map
Madaba Map
The Madaba Map is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East. Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem...

. This historical detail is preserved in gate's Arabic name, Bab el-Amud, meaning "gate of the column". On the lintel to the 2nd century gate, under which one can pass today, is inscribed the city's name under Roman rule, Aelia Capitolina. Hadrian had significantly expanded the gate which served as the main entrance to the city from at least as early as the 1st century BC during the rule of Agrippa.

One of eight gates remade in the 10th century, Damascus Gate is the only one to have preserved the same name (i.e. Bab al-Amud) in modern times. The Crusaders
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 called it St. Stephen's Gate (in Latin, Porta Sancti Stephani), highlighting its proximity to St. Stephen's Church and the site of his martyrdom. Several phases of construction work on the gate took place the early Ayyubid period (1183-1192) and both early 12th century and later 13th century Crusader rule over Jerusalem. A 1523 account of a visit to Jerusalem by a Jewish traveller from Leghorn uses the name Bâb el 'Amud and notes its proximity to the Cave of Zedekiah.

Description



Damascus Gate is flanked by two towers, each equipped with machicolation
Machicolation
A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The design was developed in the Middle Ages when the Norman crusaders returned. A machicolated battlement...

s. It is located at the edge of the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 bazaar and marketplace. In contrast to the Jaffa Gate, where stairs rise towards the gate, in the Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 Gate, the stairs descend towards the gate. Until 1967, a crenellated turret loomed over the gate, but it was damaged in the fighting that took place in and around the Old City during the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

. In August 2011, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 restored the turret, including its arrowslit, with the help of pictures from the early twentieth century when the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 controlled Jerusalem. Eleven anchors fasten the restored turret
Turret
In architecture, a turret is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle. Turrets were used to provide a projecting defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification...

to the wall, and four stone slabs combine to form the crenellated top.

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