Tanners’ Gate – Jerusalem


We are at the Tanners’ Gate. It is a small opening in the wall, used as a side entrance and exit door without the need to open the main door, which was usually double, large and heavy. The tanner’s gate is not included in the list of the eight main gates in the walls of Jerusalem, which are: Jaffa Gate, the New Gate, Damascus Gate, the Flower Gate also known as Herod’s Gate, the Lions Gate, the Golden Gate also known as the Gate of Mercy, the Dung Gate and Zion Gate.

The Tanners’ Gate is located in the southeast of the Old City. It is the name of an ancient Crusader gate in the walls of Jerusalem, located next to today’s Dung Gate, which is few tens of meters east of here.

The gate was located at the lowest point in Jerusalem, and as you can see on the map, it is located where the central valley drains out of the city, and later connects to the Kidron brook.

Over the years it was the most neglected and impoverished area in the city, which was probably already used in the days of the Second Temple as a place where artisans and sheep breeders concentrated.

In those days, Jerusalem’s beef market was in this area near the Temple Mount, and it is understandable – Visitors who come from outside Jerusalem make a pilgrimage to the Temple to bring their offering, it makes it convenient to purchase the meat near the Temple.

Even during the Crusader period, there was a meat market in this area, and the leather processors, the tanners, operated alongside it. Beyond being close to the temple, another reason for their location here is because the rainwater, which flowed in the central valley, helped butchers and tanners wash away the dirt, and the product of dealing with meat and skins. In fact, the gate itself served as an outlet for these cleaning water and I will discuss in a minute the sewer system.

In terms of roads within the Old City, then since the Byzantine period, two longitudinal axes crossed the city from north to south. The origin of the two longitudinal axes was at the Damascus Gate. One originated at Al Zytoun El Shafa st, served the traffic on the upper hill and ended about 100 meters east of Zion Gate. The second was originated 20m away at Guy street which in Hebrew means the valley street – it was used by the residents of the lower neighborhoods who lived at the foot of the Temple Mount and it ended by the Tanner’s Gate. The two North to South axes roads, were paved in the Roman-Byzantine period, they both appear in the famous Madaba map from the 6th century, and they are the upper cardo, described on the map as the main Cardo with 2 rows of pillars, & the cardo in the valley, described on the map with a single row of pillars which means it was considered as the secondary Cardo. In terms of defining what is Cardo – so this is the main axis that crossed cities and army camps from north to south throughout the Roman Empire.

Archaeological excavations at the site revealed a guard tower from the Ayyubid or Crusader period. The gate tower was built outside the wall as was common in the military concept of that period. In the tower room as can be seen there are five firing windows: two in the south wall, two in the east wall and one in the west wall near the gate opening. In the northern wall was the opening through which they would enter the city. If we go again through the gate, in its western part, archaeologists uncovered a sewage channel lined with stones and covered with stone slabs that drained the sewage into the sewer systems below the Cardo of the Byzantine period. In the Middle Ages the city still used the Byzantine sewer system and it is important to note that after some repairs this system continued to be used during the Ottoman rule and the British Mandate until 1970, there is no doubt that the Romans and Byzantines knew how to build quality sewer systems in ancient times.

And finally, as usual, a question – if we refer in general to the issue of trading and markets at the gate – In the book of Zephaniah, which is part of the books of prophets, Zephaniah mention a name of a gate – what is the gate name. The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

When standing in front of the Dung Gate while facing the Western Wall plaza, the Tanners’ Gate is 30m to the left. You can get to it through a path that crosses the garden area to the left of the Dung Gate.

Information Sources

  1. Book: Pathways in Jerusalem, Editors: Eyal Meiron, Publisher: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
  2. Book: The new Israel Guide, book 12 – Jerusalem, Editor: Alona Vardi, Publisher: Keter
  3. Israel Antiquities Authority: Preservation of the walls of Jerusalem
  4. Qadmoniot: Quarterly for the Antiquities of Eretz-Israel and Bible Lands No. 79-80, Publisher: Israel Exploration Society Jerusalem

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