Vol 8, #3 -
September 14, 2009
Last month we announced the release of
The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, a stunning
collection of 4,300 high-resolution images
from the early 1900s. This month we are delighted to make
available the second volume,
Jerusalem. This CD is spectacular, and if you have any
interest in Jerusalem, then we are certain you will love these
photographs. Below I give you seven reasons why this is a unique
and valuable resource.
If you are Jewish or living in Israel, you
don't need this reminder, but others might like to know that the Feast
of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah) begins on Friday night. This begins a
three-week period of many biblical holy days, including Yom Kippur (Day
of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). You can read more
about these in Leviticus 23:23-44. To all those
celebrating, we wish a shanah tova (Happy New Year) and a hag
sameah (Happy Holiday). May the Lord fulfill all of his
Editor, BiblePlaces.com and
Jerusalem: Volume 2 of
The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection
Here are seven reasons why I love the Jerusalem CD:
1. Stunning panoramic views. Jerusalem has so much,
so closely jammed together, that you really have to step back to
take it all in. That's one reason why a favorite stop for many is
the view from the Mount of Olives. But there are other great
vantage points, such as the tower of the YMCA. And the bell tower
of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. And the steeple of St.
Savior's Church. And the "tower of David" in the Citadel. And atop
the cloisters of the Temple Mount. And the tower of the Italian
Hospital. And the roof of the King David Hotel. And from an
2. Behind closed doors. I've been to many places in
Jerusalem that the average tourist or student cannot go. But there
are dozens of images in this volume of sites that even I have not seen. Unlike most, I've been up to the
sealed passageway of the Golden Gate and I've stood on top of the Golden
Gate, but I've never been inside the Golden Gate. I've
never been inside Herod's family tomb or inside the "Tomb of the
Sanhedrin." I've been inside Al Aqsa Mosque, but never been allowed to
take photos. I've been inside the Dome of the Rock, but never
looked down on the rock from the dome above. I've pointed out the
massive lintel of Barclay's Gate in the women's area of the Western Wall
prayer area, but never been inside the gate in the Herodian-period
passageway. I've used the Russian tower on the Mount of Olives as
a landmark, but never been able to ascend to the top. This
CD includes all of this and more.
Pool of Siloam, 1934-1939
3. Closed for construction. I'm not thinking here of the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which seems to be perpetually covered by
scaffolding. I'm thinking instead of the sites that have been
forever changed by bulldozers and architects. Sultan's Pool is an
outdoor concert area today, but it used to be a pool. Saladin
donated a beautiful wooden pulpit to Al Aqsa Mosque, but it was
destroyed by fire by a "Christian" tourist-terrorist in 1969. The
walk to the Western Wall used to involve a traipse through a cactus
field. Dung Gate wasn't built for cars. The ladder on the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher...well, wait, never mind. The Pool of
Siloam used to be Jerusalem's water source. The City of David used
to be home to two families. The Rockefeller Museum used to feature
the latest in museum technology. Jaffa Gate used to have a clock
tower, and a fountain, and a lot of horse-drawn carriages.
4. Extraordinary descriptions. If I had written the descriptions,
I would be more modest. But since I did not, I can tell you that
the photo annotations constitute an unparalleled wealth of fascinating
details about nearly every aspect of the city, ancient and modern.
Tom Powers has not only lived in the city for most of the last decade, and he
not only works in one of the best biblical studies libraries in the
world (Ecole Biblique), but he has an insatiable curiosity. Just
reading through his notes should earn you college credit. If
you're just doing this for fun, you don't have to read all 250 pages of
text, but you can expect that whatever photo you're fascinated by,
you'll have plenty of information for learning more about it.
5. 685 photos. That's a large number. The first photo
collection I bought for teaching included 100 slides ($25). The
first digital collection I bought included 50 photos for about the same
cost. If you use the photos from this collection as desktop
wallpapers, you can change once a day for the next 23 months. If
you want to create monthly calendars, you are supplied for the next 57
years. If you were to view each one for 5 seconds, you'll be
speechless for an hour.
6. Ready to use. When I want to use a photo, I don't have
to try to figure out what it is called, because I can easily search for
a filename or browse through well-labeled folders. I don't have to crop
to eliminate stereoscopic images, ugly borders, or damage.
And I don't have to touch it up to remove distracting blemishes.
If I'm creating a PowerPoint, I just drag from the Matson presentation
into my new one. If I'm writing for my blog, I just grab the jpg
image and drop it into my post. Fast and easy.
7. Price. You get all of that for $25.
News from the BiblePlaces Blog...
1st Century Synagogue Found at Magdala - The news reports are
focusing on an interesting stone inscribed with a menorah and other
decorations, but I'm more impressed by the possibility that Jesus
visited this synagogue and it may one day be open to tourists...
Bar Kochba Coin Cache Discovered - 120 gold, silver, and bronze
well-preserved coins from A.D. 135 were found in a cave near the Judean
rebels' headquarters at Beitar...
Recommended Book: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus - Of all
the popular "Jewish background of Jesus" books that I have read, this
one is the best...
Massive Canaanite Wall Found in Jerusalem - Apparently this wall
protected a passageway that led from the city wall to the defensive
towers above the Gihon Spring...
Virtual Walking Tour of the Temple Mount - This is the best way to see
the Temple Mount without actually being there...
and Now - This is a new series begun last month comparing today's scenes
with images taken from the Northern Palestine CD...
Featured BiblePlaces Photos:
The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is probably the most holy ground in the
world, if measured by the number of adherents to religious groups that consider it
so. To Jews, the Temple Mount is the location of
two temples where they entered into the presence of the holy God.
Christians revere the place for the same reason, as well as Jesus'
ministry in the temple courts. Muslims today control the premises,
and the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque are among their most sacred
buildings in the world.
The featured photographs for this newsletter were taken by
the photographers of the American Colony between 1898 and 1946.
Unique photographs include interior views of "Solomon's Stables,"
Barclay's Gate, Golden Gate, and the Double Gate. (Photographs of
the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque are not included here but are separate
presentations on the
Jerusalem CD.) The descriptions below and in the PowerPoint
presentation were written by Tom Powers and edited by Todd Bolen.
Each photo below is linked to a higher-resolution version, but we
recommend that you download the
Temple Mount PowerPoint presentation (7.5 MB), which
includes an additional 21 photos (27 total) along with extensive descriptions. You are
welcome to use these images for personal study and teaching.
Commercial use requires separate permission. For more
high-quality, high-resolution photographs and illustrations of biblical
sites, purchase the
Pictorial Library of
Bible Lands or the
Historic Views of
the Holy Land collections.
Temple Mount and Western Wall from the air
Click picture for higher-resolution version.
An aerial view encompassing most of
the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif), seen from the southwest.
The structures present in the photo suggest a date in the 1930s
At bottom center is the Western Wall
and in front of it (and piled up around the Mughrabi Gate area)
the buildings of the Mughrabi Quarter, an Arab neighborhood
razed by the Israelis in 1967 to create today's expansive prayer
plaza. Atop the Haram sit the two Muslim holy places, the Dome
of the Rock (center) and the al-Aqsa Mosque (right), dating in
their original manifestations to 691 and 714 respectively. At
the right edge of the photo, across the Kidron Valley, the
Church of All Nations at Gethsemane is visible. At top, two
institutions stand sentry on the Mount of Olives—Mt. Scopus
ridge: the Augusta Victoria church and hospital (tower at far
right) and the buildings of Hebrew University (center).
Temple Mount from the south
for higher-resolution version.
This view from the southeast is probably taken from
the Arab village of Silwan, across the Kidron Valley. From this
angle the entire width of the Temple Mount's southern wall is
visible. In the years since 1967, the area in front of the
southern wall, within the curve of the distant road visible here,
has been excavated by Israeli archaeologists.
After Mohammed's death in 632 Islam rapidly spread beyond the
confines of the Arabian peninsula, and by 638 Jerusalem had come
under the Islamic rule of the Caliph Omar. At that time the Temple
Mount was cleansed and reclaimed in the service of Islam and soon
received a new name: To Muslims it became al-Haram esh-Sharif,
the "Noble Sanctuary." When the Damascus-based Omayyad dynasty (ca.
660-750) came to control Jerusalem, it was they who created (in
their original forms) the two great shrines we know today. They also
connected Jerusalem's Haram compound with a foundational Muslim
narrative: the Prophet's Night Journey from Mecca to al-masjid al-aqsa,
"the farthest mosque," and his ascension to heaven and dialogue with
Allah. That is, by the early 8th century, under Omayyad influence,
the Haram became identified with "the farthest mosque" (Koran, Sura
for higher-resolution version.
Date of photograph: between 1898 and 1914
A view looking north along the western wall of the Temple Mount,
near the southwest corner. The three courses of curved stones
jutting from the wall are known as Robinson's Arch, after Edward
American scholar and biblical geographer who visited Palestine and
first identified and documented them, in
This photo shows the ground level
as it no doubt existed for many centuries, whereas today the spring
of the arch looms over a deep excavated area that goes right down to
the pavement of the
below. Robinson could not see a fourth course of related stones,
just below ground level (even in this photo taken some 60 years
later), a row of protruding, squarish "impost blocks"
on which the springers rest.
The complete arch had a span of 41 feet (13 m) and rose 56 feet
(17.5 m) above the pavement, and is now known to have
carried a monumental staircase
which proceeded from a western gate of the Temple Mount. After
crossing over the street, the staircase then turned and descended to
the south on other, smaller vaults (which have also been found
archaeologically) to the Herodian street.
for higher-resolution version.
photograph: between 1898 and 1914
the Temple Mount/Haram platform, at the southeast corner, lie these
expansive vaulted spaces, long known as "Solomon's Stables," which have
caught the attention of visitors to Jerusalem for centuries. The 13
north-south rows of vaults supported by 88 pillars serve structurally to
support the esplanade above and carry it over the steep slope of the
terrain here, which descends to both the south and the east.
most other Holy Land sites labeled with the name "Solomon," these spaces
in reality have nothing whatsoever to do with the biblical king. Instead,
they are situated within the massive retaining wall built by Herod the
Great in the 1st century BC, and they are much more likely to have
served as stables during the 12th century, when the Temple Mount was in
the possession of the Crusaders (1099-1187).
Interior of the Double Gate
for higher-resolution version.
photograph: between 1920 and 1933
This is a very rare view indeed, looking in through the
western portal of the Double Gate. The viewpoint is actually the interior of the
medieval tower built in front of the gate, looking north. The decorative
archivolt (applied arch), seen at top just above the Corinthian capital,
is part of the same architectural element seen outside over the eastern
portal. The column is one of four which flank the two portals on either
side; they are attached at their tops to the Herodian lintel and are
probably in secondary use here. Inside the Double Gate is an impressive
vestibule comprising four domes; in the photo, two of the domed spaces
are just visible beyond the column and in front of the stairway, which
ascends northward inside the passage. These interior elements of the
Double Gate are regarded as a mix of Herodian construction and later
rebuilding, especially by the Umayyads.
"Mosque of el-Burak"
for higher-resolution version.
of photograph: between 1940 and 1946
fascinating photograph (looking northwest) shows a room lying beneath
the surface of the Temple Mount. This space was the subject of several
descriptions and drawings by 19th century explorers but has rarely been
seen by Westerners—or photographed. Much better known, actually, is the
side of the thick wall seen here at the end of the vaulted room: it is
the massive lintel and blocked opening of an original western entrance
of the Herodian Temple Mount, the so-called
partially visible in the very southern end of today's Western Wall
(women's prayer area). The ancient gate was identified in modern times
James T. Barclay,
an American Protestant medical missionary and amateur explorer of
Jerusalem's ancient places.
vaulting overhead is the top of the Herodian gate passage, and the dark
line in the masonry of the far wall (beneath the shallow arch)
corresponds to the
bottom of the great lintel
(apparently the lintel itself is not visible). Experts estimate the
height of the Herodian gate opening, from sill to lintel, at 25 to 30
feet (7.8 to 9.3m), with the sill lying only a few yards (meters) above
the Herodian street. Thus, in the original gate passage here, a broad
stairway no doubt ascended (far beneath the floor shown here) toward the
east and the surface of the Temple Mount. The original passage ran
eastward from the western wall for at least 70 feet (22 m), but it was
reconfigured and altered in many ways over the ages. For example, the
arch of chamfered voussoirs (beveled and molded arch-stones) seen here, and others like it, point to
a major redesign and rebuilding of the passage in Omayyad times (7th-8th
centuries), when the gate was still open and in use. Since the Arab
chronicler Al-Muqadassi in 985 still lists the gate (called by him, and
all previous Arab sources,
among the active entrances into the Haram, it must have gone out of use
and was blocked sometime after that date. The eastern part of the
passage was walled off at some point, plastered, and used as a cistern.
(Arabic, "lightning") commemorated by the mosque is the mythical winged
beast who bore Mohammed on his Night Journey from Mecca to
"the farthest mosque," and thence to the "seventh heaven" where he had a
dialogue with God. In the course of the journey, on which he is
accompanied by Gabriel and encounters biblical patriarchs and prophets
(including Jesus), the Prophet pauses to pray at the "farthest mosque,"
tethering al-Buraq to a wall there.
It is interesting that the floor level of the mosque lies only a meter or
two higher than that of the prayer plaza just outside. In other words,
here, within a few meters of each other, on opposite sides of a blocked
ancient gate, Jews and Muslims—simultaneously at times, yet always
unseen by the other—both pray!
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All contents (c) 2009 Todd Bolen. Text and
photographs may be used for personal and educational use.
Commercial use requires written permission.