Tag Archives: James Turner Barclay

Solomon’s Quarries #2

Begin at Damascus Gate and walk east along Sultan Suleiman Street and you will soon come to the entrance to Solomon’s Quarries (also called Zedekiah’s Cave). See the previous post for a photo of the entrance and the history of how this underground quarry came to light in the 19th century.

At that point of the Old City north wall you will see the wall built high above a natural scarp of rock. Mackowski describes the stone here as Turonian limestone. He says,

Beneath these structures are the so-called Solomon’s Quarries, though we do not think that they should be looked for in the subterranean passages below, but in the area (through which the modern Sultan Suleiman Street passes) between this artificially cut rocky spur of Bethesda and its counterpart (opposite it to the north) which forms a part of Gordon’s Calvary and the traditional site of Jeremiah’s Grotto. (Jerusalem City of Jesus, Eerdmans, 1978, p.16).

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portions of the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem is built on a natural scarp of rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this post we will follow-up the previous one about the modern discovery of Solomon’s Quarries with some photos. Our first photo shows the corridor leading from the entry south underneath the Old City.

Due to the artificial lighting each photo can look different due to the camera settings, and/or due to the adjustments in Photoshop.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Corridor leading south from the entry of Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a wider area of the quarry, and you can see a fissure in the ceiling. Fissures like this one may account for Barclay’s description here:

Water was everywhere dropping from the lofty ceiling, which had formed numerous small stalactites and stalagmites—some of them very resplendent and beautiful, but too fragile to be collected and preserved. (The City of the Great King, p. 461)

Solomon's Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon’s Quarries. Notice the fissure in the ceiling. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we move into the largest area of the quarries. I think it is in this area where the recent TV series Dig built a pool in which a couple of the characters went skinny dipping. If you have been tempted to watch the series to learn about the archaeology of Israel, you might want to think again. Or, you could read the review in The Times of Israel here.

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next we see the largest area of Solomon’s quarries. This large hall is called The Freemason’s Hall. A sign at the entry to the hall reads,

Members of the Freemason’s Society number among the many European tourists and visitors who have come to see the cave after it was rediscovered in the winter of 1854. The Freemasons regard King Solomon as the first biblical Freemason, and since the cave was popularly viewed as the quarry used by King Solomon in the building of the First Temple, the Freemasons have held their traditional ceremonies during the past century in the main chamber of the cave.

I suppose they would not mind if I take exception to the statement that Solomon was “the first biblical Freemason.”

Freemason's Hall in Solomon's Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Freemason’s Hall in Solomon’s Quarries. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier we cited Mackowski who suggested that the quarry used by Solomon was probably where Sultan Suleiman Street is now — between the outcropping of rock we showed above and the traditional Gordon’s Calvary.

Lasor reminds us that there is no archaeological evidence for this being Solomon’s Quarries, but that the tradition is not unreasonable.

A tradition that the stone for the temple was quarried in the area near the modern Damascus Gate, known as Solomon’s Quarries, Royal Quarries, Royal Caves, King Solomon’s Mines, and the cave of Zedekiah, is without archeological support, but the tradition is not unreasonable (cf. 1 K. 6:7). (W. S. Lasor, “Jerusalem.” ISBE (Rev. ed.) Vol. II, p.1008).

Solomon’s Quarries discovered by American Medical Doctor J. T. Barclay

Dr. James Turner Barclay was sent to Jerusalem by the American Christian Missionary Society in 1851 as a medical and evangelistic missionary. During his first trip he stayed until 1854 and  returned for a second stint from 1858 to 1861. Barclay was active in medical work, treating more than 2,000 cases of malaria during his first year in the city.

Grave stone of James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, WVA. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Grave stone of Dr. James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, West Virginia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Barclay wrote a book in 1858 about the city of Jerusalem under the title The City of the Great King; or, Jerusalem As It Was, As It Is, and As It Is To Be. In it he tells about some of his explorations in and around the Old City. In a section dealing with nether Jerusalem he discusses the discovery of what is commonly called Solomon’s Quarry. Dr. J. T. Barclay inserts an article written by Dr. R. G. Barclay, his oldest son, about the exploration and their conviction that this was the quarry from which stone for the temple was taken.

This, without doubt, is the very magazine from which much of the Temple rock was hewn—the pit from which was taken the material for the silent growth of the Temple (The City of the Great King; Or, Jerusalem as It Was, as It Is, and as It Is to Be. pp. 462-463).

One of my graduate professors, Dr. Jack P. Lewis, wrote a series of articles about nineteenth century explorers of the Bible Lands in the Biblical Archaeologist (and perhaps some other journals). His article about Dr. Barclay was published in 1988 (Vol. 51). The biographical portraits have been collected in Early Explorers of Bible Lands, published by Abilene Christian University Press in 2013.

Entrance to Solomon's Quarries on Sultan Suleiman St. about a block east of Damascus Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Solomon’s Quarries on Sultan Suleiman Street about a block east of Damascus Gate. The sign to the left of the door identifies the place as King Solomon’s Quarries (Zedekiah’s Cave). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lewis provides a brief summary of Barclay’s discovery of Solomon’s Quarries (also called Zedekiah’s Cave).

Barclay claimed credit for discovering the cavern under the north wall of the city near the Damascus Gate. Popularly known as Solomon’s Quarries, this area is called Zedekiah’s Grotto by Israelis in honor of the last king of Judah. According to legend, Zedekiah is said to have fled Jerusalem through this cavern upon the Babylonian conquest of the city in 587 BCE J. J. Simons, who has identified the area as the Royal Caverns mentioned by Josephus (The Jewish War, book 5, chapter 4, paragraph 2; see Thackeray 1961: 245) estimated that 350,000 cubic meters of stone were quarried there (Simons 1952: 13).

When Barclay heard rumors of a cavern under the north wall, he tried to locate an entrance to it. He and his two sons conducted their search at night in order to avoid detection by Moslems, who would have opposed such an expedition.

The group made their way into the blocked cavern through a hole started by the Barclay dog when it was digging for bones. Once inside the cave they discovered Hebrew and Arabic inscriptions that were too effaced to be deciphered (Barclay 1858: 461–62; Johnson 1858: 98–100). They also found crosses carved into the walls, indicating the presence of Christian pilgrims from an earlier period.

The Barclays were disappointed that they found no outlet to the Haram or the Antonia fortress but they were impressed by the vast piles of blocks and chippings over which they had to clamber and were convinced they had discovered the quarries from which the stones for Solomon’s Temple were cut.

In a future post we will include some photos of the interior of the Quarries.

For more about Dr. James Turner Barclay and his work, see TheRestorationMovement website here.