The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by 16th-century stone walls with seven gates. One of these gates is Herod’s Gate. Located on the northeastern corner of the Old City, Herod’s Gate connects the Muslim Quarter inside the old city to the eponymic Palestinian neighborhood of Bab az-Zahra, situated just outside the Old City walls.
Herod’s Gate is named after the king who built and renovated permanent iconic structures in the Holy Land. Christian pilgrims in the Middle Ages who thought a nearby church was the palace of Herod Antipas, to whom Pontius Pilate sent Jesus, named the gate. The gate is built on the ancient location of Herod’s palace, which has now been identified as the site of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicodemus near the gate.
Herod’s Gate has other names. For example, In Hebrew, the gate is called Sha’ar HaPrakhim, which means “Flowers Gate,” popularly associated with the blooming flower stone rosette adorning the gate tower. Bab az-Zahra is the Arab Muslim name of the gate due to its proximity to the Arab neighborhood called Bab az-Zahra.
History of Herod’s Gate
Herod’s Gate began its life as a small wicket gate rarely opened. In keeping with medieval construction, the gate entrance was on the eastern flank of the gate tower so that the entrance to the city would not be in a straight line.
Suleiman the Magnificent began building Jerusalem’s city walls in the 1530s. However, it was one of the last gates to be added to Suleiman’s walls. The new gate was opened in 1875) in the northern frontal wall of the tower, facing Sultan Suleiman Street, and the original lateral entrance was closed. The new gate was opened to provide a passageway to the new neighborhoods emerging north of the Old City.
Today, the entrance leads to a vaulted passageway through the tower and opens into the Old City. The tower has a guardroom above the entrance and steps leading to the ramparts. Above the entrance is a stone rosette that gives the gate its name, “Flower Gate.” It has a pointed arch dating back to the early 20th century AD.
Visiting Herod’s Gate
Often neglected by tourists, Herod’s Gate is not too busy, although, during the day, stallholders practically hide it. If you are looking for a more authentic cultural experience, visit the area inside the gate where you’ll find a proper market frequented by the locals for everyday shopping instead of souvenir stalls selling tourist tat.