Lions' Gate (Hebrew: שער האריות Sha'ar ha-Arayot, Arabic: باب الأسباط, also St. Stephen's Gate or Sheep Gate) is a gate in the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel. It is one of seven open gates in the Eastern Wall.
|Town or city||Jerusalem|
The start of the traditional Christian observance of the last walk of Jesus from prison to crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa begins at the Lions' Gate. Carved into the wall above the gate are four lions, two on the left and two on the right. Suleiman the Magnificent had the carving made to celebrate the Ottoman defeat of the Mamluks in 1517. Legend has it that Suleiman's predecessor Selim I dreamed of lions that were going to eat him because of his plans to level the city. He was spared only after promising to protect the city by building a wall around it. This led to the lion becoming the heraldic symbol of Jerusalem. However, Jerusalem already had been, from Biblical times, the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, whose emblem was a lion (Genesis 49:9).
Historian Moshe Sharon notes the similarity of the sculpted lions to similar pairs at Jisr Jindas and Qasr al-Basha in Gaza. All represent the same Sultan: Baybars. Sharon estimates that they all date to approximately 1273 C.E.
The gate is part of the city's extant walls, built by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman in 1542. The walls stretch for approximately 4.5 kilometers (2.8 mi) and rise to a height of 5–15 meters (16–49 ft), with a thickness of 3 meters (9.8 feet). All together, the Old City walls contain 43 surveillance towers and 11 gates, seven of which are presently open.
- Jerusalem municipality website Archived 2011-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land: an Oxford archaeological guide from earliest times to 1700, 2008, p. 21, ISBN 978-0-19-923666-4
- Sharon, 2009, p. 58 and pl.6.
- The Jerusalem Post Millennium Special Archived 2007-04-29 at the Wayback Machine