The Citadel of Jerusalem
The citadel of Jerusalem,
known as the "Tower of David," has been a landmark of the
city since ancient times. The citadel is located on the western side
of the Old City, just south
of the Jaffa Gate. Its location was chosen for topographic reasons
– this is the highest point of the southwestern hill of Jerusalem,
higher than any other point in the ancient city, including the Temple
Mount. A series of fortifications built here in the course of more
than twenty centuries, protected Jerusalem from the west and also overlooked and controlled the entire city.
A first archeological survey
of the citadel, and excavations, were conducted between 1934 and
1947. Renewed excavations were undertaken after the reunification of
the city, between the years 1968 and 1988, preparing the opening of
the site to visitors.
Every period has left its
mark and has been identified in the assemblage of architectural
remains. In the citadels foundations are buried the remains of
Jerusalems fortifications from the end of the monarchic period
(8th to 6th centuries BCE) through the early Arab period (seventh to
eleventh centuries). The outline of the citadel known today is from
the Crusader period; the citadel itself was built in the mid-16th century by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent,
and incorporates the remains of earlier citadels dating from Ayyubid
and Mamluk times.
The Citadel is protected by
a high wall and large towers, and it is surrounded by a wide, deep
moat, part of which was blocked in modern times. The entrance is from
the east, via an outer gate, a bridge over the moat and a fortified
inner gate house.
The Early Fortification
In the citadels
courtyard, excavations have revealed the remains of fortifications
dating from the late monarchic period to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Here was the northwestern corner of the First Wall which is
described in great detail by the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus
Flavius. According to him, the First Wall extended from here
towards the Temple
Mount to the east and also to the south, surrounding Mount Zion
and then joining the southern wall of the City
of David. (War V,4,2) Remains of this wall
and of three large towers are preserved to an impressive height of
over 7 m. in the citadel courtyard. Several construction phases
belonging to different periods can be observed, distinguishable by
differences in the masonry and in the method of laying the stones.
The Monarchic Period
The wall was first built in
this area by Hezekiah, king
of Judah, at the end of the 8th century BCE. A detailed description
of its construction on the eve of the Assyrian invasion of Judah, is in the Bible: He [Hezekiah] set to work
resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised
towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall. (2 Chron. 32:5)
The remains of that incredibly wide wall (ca. 7 m.!), built of large
boulders, were uncovered at great depth on the bedrock of the hill.
This mighty fortification protected a new residential quarter built
on the southwestern hill of Jerusalem which, until that time, comprised only the City of David and the
Temple on Mt. Moriah. The wall was damaged in 587/6 BCE, when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians.
The Second Temple Period
After some 300 years, the
First Wall was restored by the Hasmonean rulers, who invested considerable effort in increasing the area of Jerusalem and strengthening its fortifications. At the Citadel, a 4 m. thick
wall with two mighty towers, dating from this period, was uncovered.
It was constructed in two phases: in the first, rectangular ashlars
were laid in header fashion, a Hellenistic building style; in the second phase, ashlars with dressed margins and
protruding central boss on the outer faces, were laid in alternating
courses of headers and stretchers.
At the end of the 1st
century BCE, King Herod improved the fortifications in this area and
added three huge towers to the First Wall. A precise description,
including the measurements of these towers is found in the writings
of Josephus Flavius. The towers, which rose high over the city, were
named Phasael (after Herods brother), Hippicus (after Herods
friend) and Mariamne (after Herods Hasmonean wife). They were
built to protect the large royal palace south of them, which
apparently included the area of the present day citadel and part of
the Armenian Quarter. Remains of the podium built inside the First
Wall to support the palace were found during excavation of the
Citadel. It consists of a grid of retaining walls which held earth
fill, thus artificially raising the ground level by some 5 m.
One of the towers built by
Herod has survived to the present day. This is the so-called Tower of
David which is incorporated into the fortifications of the eastern
side of the present Citadel. It should be noted that the traditional
name Tower of David, said to be the result of the incorrect
identification of this structure by Christian pilgrims in the Byzantine period, has in fact much earlier origins: Josephus refers to the
southwestern hill of Jerusalem of that period as the "Citadel of King David." (War V,3,1)
The dimensions of the Tower
of David are approximately 22 x 18 m., consisting of 16 courses of
large ashlar stones weighing over a ton each. They have trimmed
margins and a flat central boss, carefully laid without gaps, and the
interior of the tower is filled with large ashlars. The Tower of
David is one of the most impressive examples of royal construction of
the Second Temple period in Jerusalem.
It stands to this day to a height of 20 m.!
The three towers built by
Herod and the other fortifications created a powerful, well protected
fortress. Thence the decisive strategic role it played in the First
Jewish Rebellion against Rome (66-70 CE) which ended with the
siege of the city, its conquest and destruction. This is attested to
in another tower, located in the southern part of the citadel, which
was built in the 1st century CE and was destroyed during the
rebellion: a thick layer of debris, including stones, plaster, and
charred wooden roofing beams, was uncovered.
The Roman Period
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Romans established a camp to quarter the Tenth Legion on the southwestern
hill of the city. It was protected by the three towers built by
Herod, which the Roman commander Titus had ordered to be left intact.
(Josephus, War VII,1,1) Remains of this Roman Legion camp were
uncovered in the courtyard of the Citadel; they include clay water
pipe sections bearing seal impressions reading "L·X·F,"
for Legio X Fretensis, the full name of the Tenth Legion.
The Byzantine Period
During the Byzantine period, the fortifications of the citadel, including the Tower of
David, were restored. Nearby, monks built monasteries and other
religious institutions, as reported by several contemporary Christian
travelers. Only fragmentary remains of fortifications, walls,
cisterns and a lintel engraved with a cross, date to this period.
The Early Arab Period
In the 8th century, during
the period of Arab rule over Jerusalem,
a new citadel was established. Among its remains are a rounded corner
tower measuring 10 m. in diameter, from which 4-m. thick walls
extend to the north and to the west. The precise plan of this citadel
is not known, as severe damage was caused when the Crusaders built their citadel.
The Crusader Period
The Crusader citadel, built in the 12th century, was innovative and extended
northward and westward, beyond the ancient city wall. The early city
wall became an inner terrace wall in the courtyard, which was buried
under some 10 m. of debris, protecting and preserving it until its
exposure during the archeological excavations.
Today, for the first time in
its long history, the citadel is no longer used for military
purposes. Instead, it functions as the museum of the history of Jerusalem.
Presented in its various towers are exhibits tracing 5,000 years of
the citys history. In the courtyard, remains of the First Wall and
its towers, of the Second Temple period and of the fortification from
the Byzantine and early Arab periods, have been preserved and serve as a veritable
guidebook to the long history of Jerusalems fortifications on the