Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

Topographical Visit to the Western-Wall-Tunnels and Davidson-Center


6 Apirl 2017 STS-Jerusalem
MAGES Maximilian

On Thursday the 7th of April the students of the first year went out for their final topographical visit with Dr. Leopold Vonck. Their journey through ancient Jerusalem led them finally all around the Western Wall with all its hidden secrets.

As two weeks before we met at Dung-Gate with Father Vonck and started our way to the Western Wall. Before we entered the tunnels at 9.00 am Dr. Vonck gave us a brief introduction into the significance of the great wall, focused on the architecture of the Second Temple by Herod the Great, which can still be seen by those special cuboids, with their perfectly worked out frame. Moreover, he showed us also Wilson’s Arch, which supported one of the main entrances to the Temple. A few minutes later we started our tour through the so called Western-Wall-Tunnels, an archeological project along the Western Wall from the Western-Wall-Plaza all the way up until the Via Dolorosa where once the former Roman Fortress Antonia stood. We were guided by a special Guide from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Before we started our tour, he gave us a short introduction into the history of Mount Moria, the place where Jews believe, that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his Son Isaac. Later on David conquered the Jebusite City of Jerusalem, which was just below and his Son Salomon built the First Temple on the top of the Mountain. After the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile in 587 BC the Jews returned to the Promised Land and rebuilt the Temple.  Herod the Great enlarged the Temple-Areal in an incomparable extent. It was totally destroyed by the Romans on the 9th of Av in 70AD. The Western Wall is the best preserved remains of the once most splendid building in the world. It is also the side which was closest to the Holy of Holies, for which reason it has such a significance for the Jews all over the world who are always praying in its direction.

After a short introduction the guide led us through the tunnels. In the tunnel, we saw a huge, perfectly cut 13,6x3x3m cuboids with an estimated weight of over 500 tons. It is the largest cut stone ever found in Israel and one of the largest stones used for construction in the world. From there we made our way north along the wall. It is a big question how they built the Temple – a short video-animation gave us a little impression.

After the tunnel, we visited the Davidson-Center, where we spent the second half of our Excursion. First we walked through a little Museum where some findings from the excavations can be seen, especially coins and ancient seals, as for example the seal of King Hezekiah. Finally, Father Vonck led us to the famous Robinson-Arch, which supported the entrance for the Aristocrats. In this place we could also walk on the main ancient street quite next to the temple which leads to the north, crossing also Warrens Gate. When the Romans destroyed the Temple they threw down the massive stones of the walls all the way down to the street, for that the street was damaged in many places. On one part of the street there is a pile of stones as they lay there for over a thousand years. There is also one special stone from the South-West corner with an inscription which designated this place as the place for the trumpets. The original stone can be seen in the Israel Museum. Our last station was on the southern Wall of the Temple Mount where we visited the remains of the Double- and Triple Gate. It was very impressive, standing there were once thousands of pilgrims came to venerate God in his Temple and even today millions of pilgrims are visiting this most Holy Place, especially in these days of Pesach. Beside Jews and Moslems, this place has also a great importance for us Christians, because the Temple had also great significance for Jesus and the events all around his passion. So it was a great enrichment for us students of the STS. At least there is no more Temple today - for us Christians the new Temple is risen in Jesus Christ, nevertheless this place has never lost its holiness.
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