The Citadel of Jerusalem

The Citadel at Jaffa (Joppa) Gate in the west wall of the Old City of Jerusalem provides one of the most distinctive and memorable views of the city.

This view of the Citadel was made from the west, looking across the Hinnom Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This view of the Citadel was made from the west, looking across the north-south stretch of the Hinnom Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The distinctive square tower (with the flag) is popularly known as the Tower of David, even though the Citadel never had anything to do with David.

The photo below shows the towers of the citadel as they are reconstructed in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. The informative booklet describing the model identifies the towers as follows:

  • Left: The tower of Phasael, Herod’s brother. This is the tower now known as the Tower of David. It has been dated to the Herodian period, but scholars differ over whether it should be identified with Phasael or Hippicus towers. Herod the Great reigned from 37-4 B.C., but his “period” could be thought of as continuing until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, and overlapping with the Roman period. The Roman period could be considered from the entrance of Rome into the country to the beginning of the Byzantine period (64 B.C. to A.D. 324).
  • Center: The tower of Hippicus, Herod’s friend.
  • Right: The tower of Mariamne, named for the favorite wife of Herod whom he later murdered.

Josephus describes these towers in The Jewish War V:161-183.

The three towers of the Citadel from the time of Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The three towers of the Citadel from the time of Herod the Great. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo provides a nice aerial view of the present condition of the Citadel. On the left you see Jaffa Gate, the only entrance to the Old City from the west. Notice the red-roofed building on the extreme right of the photo, with parking further to the right. That is the Kishle, the Old City Police Station. More about that in a future post. The Tower of David Museum is housed in the Citadel. The TOD web site may be accessed here. Click on Citadel for information related to this post.

Aerial photo of the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial photo of the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Citadel has undergone several archaeological excavations. Here is a brief list as discussed by Renée Sivan and Giora Solar in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, ed. by Hillel Geva (1994).

  • Extensive survey by Conrad Shick in 1898.
  • The first archaeological excavation was conducted by C. N. Johns, on behalf of the British Mandatory Department of Antiquities, 1934-1947. Jones “exposed the outer north and west faces of the First Wall (8th century B.C.) comprising four phases of construction.” On the eastern, inner side of the wall, he found material from the Roman period.
  • R. Amiran and A. Eitan excavated in the Citadel courtyard in 1968-1969. They uncovered Hasmonean buildings (late 2nd to early 1st century B.C.) “overlaid by a complex of walls which they interpreted as part of the foundations of Herod’s palace.”
  • Hillel Geva excavated the southern part of the Citadel courtyard between 1976-1980.
  • Sivan and Solar excavated several portions of the Citadel.

To summarize, within the Citadel we have ruins which belong to the Iron Age (8th century B.C.), Hasmonean Period (late 2nd to early 1st century B.C.), Herodian Period (late 1st century B.C. to A.D. 70), Roman Period (64 B.C. to A.D. 324), Byzantine Period (4th to 7th centuries A.D.), the Early Arab Period (8th-9th centuries A.D.), the Crusader Period (A.D. 1099-1260), the Mamluk (A.D. 1260-1517) and Ottoman Periods A.D. 1517-1918). See the chapter by Hillel Giva in Jerusalem Revealed (1994) for more details. (Dates are those used by Max Miller, Introducing the Holy Land).

The photo below provides a view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Within this area we have ruins from the various archaeological/historical periods mentioned above, covering a period of about 2700 years.

Interior southwest view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior southwest view of the interior of the Citadel from the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Before leaving the article by Sivan and Solar, allow me to mention that the Tower of David was exposed to the bedrock during their excavation, “except for its north-western corner which was built on small stones and debris.” The bedrock at this point is 766.65 meters (2515.26 feet) above sea level.

Everyone who reads this blog probably knows that the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem date to the Turkish period, built in the 16th century A.D.

More about the Citadel and a visit to the Kishle in post(s) to come. The photos in this post are sized for use in PowerPoint presentations for the classroom. I hope some of you will find them useful. Publication requires the usual licensing.

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3 responses to “The Citadel of Jerusalem

  1. Reblogged this on Clay Norman and commented:
    Climbing to the roof of the Citadel is well worth the effort. From there you have a wonderful view of the Temple Mount. The museum is worth the time to explore.

  2. Pingback: Under the jail – a visit to the Kishle | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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