The magnificent Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by 16th century stone walls and can be entered through seven gates. Herod’s Gate is located on the northeastern corner of the Old City connecting the Old City Muslim Quarter to the Palestinian Bab az-Zahra neighborhood outside the Old City walls. Like the other Jerusalem Old City gates, Herod’s Gate has several names.
The gate was once known as Bab-a-Sahairad (“those who do not sleep at night”) which alludes to the future resurrection of Hajji Muslims buried in the cemetery located opposite the gate. The name Herod’s Gate is based on the ancient location of Herod’s palace identified as the site of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicodemus near the gate. Luke 23:7 tells us how Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas’s palace which would have stood nearby. Another name given to this gate is Sheep's Gate, after the weekly sheep market held in the square outside the gate.
History of Herod’s Gate
Before Suleiman the Magnificent began building Jerusalem’s city walls in the 1530s, the site of Herod’s Gate had a small wicket gate that was rarely opened. In keeping with medieval construction, the gate entrance was on the eastern flank of the gate tower so that entrance to the city would not be in a straight line. Within the city walls was the new neighborhood of Bezetha that was settled in the early 1st century AD to accommodate the growing population.
Herod’s Gate was one of the last gates to be added to Suleiman's walls and was opened in 1875 to allow access to newly settled neighborhoods north of the Old City. The new entrance opened on the frontal wall of the tower, and the original lateral entrance was closed. Archaeological digs in the surrounding area uncovered remnants of fortifications from several periods confirming that the northern wall was one of the city’s most vulnerable to enemy attacks.
The gate stands just 100m east of where Crusaders breached the city walls in 1099. The current gate with a pointed arch dates back to the early 20th century AD. The entrance leads to a vaulted passageway through the tower and opens up in the Old City. The tower has a guardroom above the entrance and steps leading to the ramparts. Above the entrance is a stone rosette that gives the gate its name “Flower Gate.”
Visit Herod’s Gate
Ironically, Herod’s Gate is about the only landmark in Jerusalem bearing the name of the king who built and renovated endless iconic structures in the Hoy Land. Not only that but the gate we see today isn’t as impressive as other Old City gates such as Damascus Gate. In 1986 a major project was undertaken to restore the gate and construct an entrance plaza outside the city walls. You might not come to see Herod’s Gate for the architecture but it is a great place to get a glimpse of everyday life in the Muslim Quarter where there are few tourists.