There are eight main gates to the old city of Jerusalem. Seven of them are open. One, the Gate of Mercy also called the Golden Gate is sealed. The Gate of Mercy is the only gate of the Temple Mount located in the eastern wall. The gate is located in the center of the Eastern Wall and as you can see it is a large and complex structure built into the area of the Temple Mount. Our focus today will be on the gate facing outside the old city.
As for the name of the gate – the different religions have different names: the Jews called the two arches together – the Gate of Mercy. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through this gate. 10th-century Arab historians, called the gate by two names, a name for each arch: the southern gate is called the Gate of Mercy & the northern gate is called the Gate of Repentance. The Christian name it, the Golden Gate. According to Christian traditions, Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor between 610 and 641, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 631 and entered barefoot through the Gate of Mercy, just like the entry of Jesus, and returned the cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
During the Second Temple period there was probably a gate named Shushan Gate which was built by the Babylonian exiles and was so named due to the relief of the city of Shushan that was on the gate.
What we see in front of us, this specific structure was built in the seventh century, either in the Byzantine or the Umayyad period, still, there is a consensus that the decoration at the top of the gate and around it – belong to the Umayyad period. Remains of an earlier entrance gate from the Roman period were also found here. The cemetery next to the wall is Muslim and its area extends from the Lions’ Gate to almost the southern end of the eastern wall near the Umayyad palaces.
It is important to note that the gate is not designed to be used as a defense gate because it is very wide, it has many decorations and the entrance is a frontal passthrough type, not angled, as a protective gate should be, such as Jaffa Gate or Zion Gate, so it is probably a monument or a victory gate. Godfrey of Bouillon, the leader of the First Crusade, broke through the gate and entered Jerusalem like Jesus and Heraclius.
During the period of the Kingdom of Jerusalem between 1099 and 1187, the gate was opened twice a year for Christian religious marches. The gate was sealed by Saleh Edin after conquering Jerusalem in 1187. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Ottoman’s sultan Suleiman I, re-built the wall of Jerusalem, and as part of the construction, the ancient gate structure was incorporated, while being sealed with the same type of stones used for building the wall.
Let’s summarize the different traditions:
As I mentioned, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through the Gate of Mercy. According to Christian tradition, Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time through this gate on Sunday of the week before Passover. In 631, after his victory over the Persians and the return of Jerusalem to Christianity, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius entered Jerusalem through the Golden Gate with the cross that according to the tradition, was identified by Helena the mother of the Byzantine emperor Constantine, as the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The cross was plundered by the Persians when they conquered the city in 614 and its return was considered a great victory for the Christians. Muslims believe that this is the place through which justice will come to light on the Day of Judgment. This tradition resembles a Jewish tradition regarding the judgment to be held in Jehoshaphat Valley and I invite you to watch the video on Lions’ Gate in which I expand on this tradition.
And finally, as usual a question for you – after the British conquered the land of Israel from the Ottomans in 1917, there was a thought to have a parade passing through the Gate of Mercy and having a famous British General heading it, to recreate the entry of Jesus, Heraclius and Godfrey of Bouillon. what is the name of the British General – the answer will appear at the end of the video.