Golden Gate (Jerusalem)
Location in Old Jerusalem
|Town or city||Jerusalem|
The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is the oldest of the current gates in Jerusalem's Old City Walls. According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate, and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3) and a new gate replaces the present one; that is why Jews used to pray for mercy at the former gate at this location. Hence the name Sha'ar HaRachamim (שער הרחמים), the Gate of Mercy. In Christian apocryphal texts, the gate was the scene of a meeting between the parents of Mary, so that Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate became a standard subject in cycles depicting the Life of the Virgin. It is also said that Jesus passed through this gate on Palm Sunday. In Arabic, it is known as the Gate of Eternal Life. In ancient times, it was known as the Beautiful Gate.
Remains of a much older gate dating to the times of the Second Jewish Temple were found. The gate is located in the middle of the eastern side of the Temple Mount. The portal in this position was believed to have been used for ritual purposes in biblical times.
The present gate was probably built in the 520s AD, as part of Justinian I's building program in Jerusalem, on top of the ruins of the earlier gate in the wall. An alternate theory holds that it was built in the later part of the 7th century by Byzantine artisans employed by the Umayyad khalifs.
The sealing of the gate
The Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate in 1541. While this may have been purely for defensive reasons, in Jewish tradition this is the gate through which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem, and it is suggested that Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate to prevent the Messiah's entrance. The Ottomans also built a cemetery in front of the gate, in the belief that the precursor to the Messiah, Elijah, would not be able to pass through the Golden Gate and thus the Messiah would not come. This belief was based upon two premises. First, according to Islamic teaching Elijah is a descendant of Aaron, making him a priest or kohen. Second, that a Jewish kohen is not permitted to enter a cemetery. This second premise is not wholly correct because a Kohen is permitted to enter a cemetery in which either Jews or non-Jews are buried, such as the one outside the Golden Gate, as long as certain laws or Halakha regarding purity are followed.
In Christian culture
Honoring the Jewish tradition (see above) and inspired by apocryphal accounts of the life of the Virgin Mary, medieval Christian artists depicted the relationship of Jesus' maternal grandparents Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate. The couple came to represent the Christian ideal of chastity in conjugal relations within marriage. The pious custom of a bridegroom carrying his bride across the threshold of their marital home may be based in the traditional symbolism of the Golden Gate to the faithful. In early medieval art, the now-formal tenet of the immaculate conception of the mother of Christ was commonly depicted in a form known in Italian as the Metterza: the three generations of grandmother, mother, and son.
The metaphor also features heavily in the personalist phenomenology of Pope John Paul II, his Theology of the Body, a collection of reflections on this theme Crossing the Threshold of Hope were written to encourage the Roman Catholic faithful facing the challenges of materialism and increasing secularism and published on the cusp of the new millennium in 1998. The threshold between the earthly and heavenly realms symbolized by the Golden Gate represents the Mystical Body of the Church, often viewed as the Bride of Christ.
In Christian eschatology, sunrise in the east symbolizes both Christ's resurrection at dawn on Easter Sunday and the direction of his Second Coming. Sanctuaries for Christian congregational worship at an altar are often arranged with respect to the east. City gates in Christian urban centers often contain religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travelers. The Ostra Brama in Vilnius, Lithuania contains an icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, which is venerated by both Roman Catholic and Orthodox inhabitants.
Topography east of the Old City
The Golden Gate is one of the few sealed gates in Jerusalem's Old City Walls, along with the Huldah Gates, and a small Biblical and Crusader-era postern located several stories above ground on the southern side of the eastern wall.
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