This plan of the Tomb of the Patriarchs at Hebron shows the Herodian enclosure erected around the traditional resting place of the patriarchs and the subsequent phases of building through Moslem times.

The bold rectangular outline of the plan (in black) represents the massive, six-foot-thick enclosure wall built by Herod the Great. The four corners of the enclosure wall are oriented toward the points of the compass with north at the upper left corner. The white area inside the rectangular enclosure wall is an open, central courtyard. The area surrounding the courtyard is shaded blue. To the right of the courtyard runs a portico, or porch, with a covered ceiling from the Crusader period indicated by crossed dotted lines. The portico is probably Mameluke, 13th–16th century.

To the left of the courtyard are two cenotaphs. The cenotaph of Leah is hexagonal; the cenotaph of Jacob is octagonal. Under the portico are two more cenotaphs. Sarah’s is hexagonal; Abraham’s is octagonal. Between them lies a vestibule and the entrance to a mosque (yellow) that was formerly a Crusader church. A wall, probably Mameluke, shown vertically on the plan, separates the portico from the Mosque. The exteriors of the columns inside the mosque are also from the Crusader period.

The mosque was originally a Byzantine basilica and later a Crusader church. It was converted into a mosque after 1188. Crossed dotted lines indicate the vaulted ceiling, probably from the former church, and repaired by the Mamelukes. The cenotaphs of Rebecca and Isaac are inside the mosque. Cave entrance “B” abuts the Herodian enclosure wall to the right of Isaac’s cenotaph. Cave entrance “A” is indicated on the opposite wall, to the left of Isaac’s tomb.

The semicircular niche in the middle of the southeastern enclosure wall of the mosque is the mihrab, which faces toward Mecca. The minbar, or pulpit with stairs, is indicated by small vertical lines extending left from the southeastern enclosure wall directly below the niche.

The two adjoining structures located outside of the southwestern enclosure wall (at the bottom left of the plan) are the traditional tomb and mosque of Joseph, added in the tenth century. The larger opening in the segment of the enclosure wall bordering the Joseph additions is probably the original entrance to the Herodian enclosure. The smaller opening to the left was made in the 14th century.

The stairway on the right of the plan has been removed in this century; beside the famous “seventh step” of this stairway was a crack through which non-Moslems were allowed to peek into the cave.

How to Enter the Enclosure

Access to the enclosure housing the cenotaphs of the patriarchs is gained by a rather circuitous route beginning at the lower left corner (west) of the plan. After passing through the entrance in the corner (probably Mameluke) into a vestibule outside the Herodian enclosure we climb the 30 steps indicated by the shots horizontal lines outside, to the left of the thick Herodian enclosure wall. At the top of the stairway we proceed through a gate, also probably a Mameluke construction, and continue through a hallway that skirts the outside of the enclosure wall. At the upper left (north) corner of the enclosure, we turn right, and still following the outer perimeter of the (northeast) enclosure wall, proceed under a vaulted hall indicated by crossed dotted lines. (This vaulted hall has now been incorporated into a mosque, not shown in the Vincent and Mackay plan.) At exactly the mid-point of the top (northeastern) wall is a breach that allows us to enter the enclosure itself. Once inside, we are standing under the vaulted portico. The open courtyard lies beyond.