The Golden Gate was built around 640-705 AD by the last Byzantine ruler, or possibly the first of the Muslim rulers. This gate was sealed in the 700s to prevent Jewish zealots from creating and promoting a messiah like political figure to rally around. The Crusaders kept the gate blocked, but twice each year they would unblock and open it for Palm Sunday in the spring and for a fall festival called “Exaltation of the Cross.” This gate has not been unblocked since the Crusaders lost control of Jerusalem.
Arab graves fill the space in front of the entire length of the eastern wall.
Behind the black metal fence setting in front of the Golden Gate and underneath recently poured concrete is the now-inaccessible Herodian gate. Photos of this 2000-year-old gate (and its Herodian ashlars in the arch) were taken in 1969 by James Flemming, a student from the American Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem (now called Jerusalem University College). Lambert Dolphin records James Fleming’s
experience and discovery in these words:
In the year 1969 Jerusalem archaeologist James Fleming was investigating the Eastern wall of the Temple where a Muslim cemetery has long been located. It had rained heavily the night before and the ground remained soggy the next day. As he investigated the area immediately in front of the
Golden Gate, the ground beneath his feet gave way and he dropped into a hole about eight feet deep.
Fleming found himself "knee-deep in bones" and became suddenly aware he had fallen into a mass burial site. To him, the most amazing aspect of this incident was his clear view of five large wedge shaped stones set into a massive arch. It appeared he had discovered an ancient gate under the present Golden Gate: "Then I noticed with astonishment that on the eastern face of the turret wall, directly beneath the Golden Gate itself, were five wedgeshaped stones neatly set in a massive arch spanning the turret wall. Here were the remains of an earlier gate to Jerusalem, below the Golden Gate, one that apparently had never been fully documented. (BAR, Jan./Feb. 1983, p30)
Very soon after this discovery the Muslims covered the chamber, cemented over the top, and surrounded the mass grave with a protective iron fence. Sadly, this means it is unlikely that Israeli archaeologists will be able to excavate the gate under the Golden Gate in the near future. In contrast visitors to the Damascus Gate are now able to visit an ancient, restored old Roman gate beneath the present Damascus Gate (the present upper Damascus Gate was reconstructed in 1537-38). Josephus states (Wars V, 184-189) that the Eastern temple enclosure wall was the only one not rebuilt by Herod the Great. The ancient gate beneath the Golden Gate may therefore date from Solomon times or at least from the time of Nehemiah. Such a view of consistent with Asher Kaufman’s view that the First and Second Temples were located 110 meters North of the Dome of the Rock in the immediate vicinity of the small Dome of the Tablets shrine on the main temple platform. (by Lambert Dolphin at http://www.templemount.org/visittemp.html)
Two different photos of the ancient gate below the present Golden Gate taken by James Fleming after he had fallen in the grave in front of the Golden Gate in 1969 may be seen online at these two locations:
(article with photo here)
Muslim graves in front of the Eastern Gate. Notice the black fence installed by the Muslims that was installed after James Fleming (see above) discovered an ancient gate from the days of King Herod (similar to the gate found under the Damascus Gate.)
Today’s Eastern Gate is also known as the Golden Gate, because it was associated with the Beautiful Gate on the Temple Mount mentioned in scripture. When Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin beginning in 386 AD, he translated the Greek word oraia (“beautiful”) into Latin using the Latin word aurea, which means “golden.” Thus, the Eastern Gate, which was associated with the Temple and prophecy, came into our English language known as the Golden Gate instead of the Beautiful Gate.
Muslim graves surround the Golden Gate. The Temple Mount
is on the other side of the gate.
Toni and Galyn by the Golden Gate in 2007
Inside the Eastern Gate as viewed from the Jewish Temple Mount with the Muslim Dome of the Rock behind my back as I take this photo.
Inside the Golden Gate while standing on the Temple Mount
Inside the Eastern or Golden Gate. If the gate was not blocked shut and a person could walk through this gate from the outside, this is where they would come through to enter the city or the Temple Mount. Inside the Golden Gate