David Harris

Jesus of Nazareth undoubtedly walked down these steps, as did thousands of other Jews when they passed through the double-arched exit gate in the southern wall of the Temple Mount after leaving the Temple esplanade. Now sealed and blocked by a medieval building, the two arches are indiscernible, but a Herodian lintel fragment from the 20-foot-high gate (see close-up) preserves for us a hint of the gate’s original splendor.

Always careful to avoid animal or human images— prohibited by the Second Commandment—Herodian stonecarvers chose flowers, fruit and geometric patterns to adorn the Temple Mount.

On the east part of this same southern wall, to the right of the steps, are three arches of another gate, also sealed (see close up of gates. The Double and Triple Gates are also called the Hulda Gates.) Similar steps 50 feet wide (not restored), led up to this triple gate, the main entryway to the Temple Mount. The steps are not high, only 7 to 10 inches, but their depths alternate—one step is 12 inches deep, the next 35, then 12 again, and so on. Thus the architect created an ascent that was not arduous, but did require the climber to slow down and approach the holy site in a deliberate, unrushed way. (See artist’s reconstruction.)