Three-hundred and fifty-five meters to the north of the southern corner of the western wall, there is a gate going through a tunnel into Har Habayis, called now Warren's gate. This gate is mentioned by Josephus, who says (Antiquities 15:11:5): Now in the western quarters of the enclosure of the temple there were four gates; the first led to the king's palace, and went to a passage over the intermediate valley; two more led to the suburbs of the city; and the last led to the other city, where the road descended down into the valley by a great number of steps, and thence up again by the ascent". This is one of the gates which led to the suburbs, as it was located outside the original walls of Yerushalayim, in the area inside the second wall.
This gate and its tunnel were first explored in 1866 by Charles Wilson, and then again by Charles Warren in 1869. Wilson (in the PEF Quarterly Statement, January 1880, p. 30) named this gate Warren's gate, as a tribute to Warren's work in Yerushalayim. Warren himself, however, was not happy with this, writing, (PEF Quarterly Statement, April 1880, p. 165) "Colonel Wilson proposes to call this gate by my name, because he discovered it, on the same principle that Tobler's discovery was called Wilson's Arch. I would deprecate the naming of the ancient buildings in this manner".
This gate is 5.5 meters wide, around 7.5 meters tall, and is located 728.5 meters above sea level. At present, it has an arched lintel, however, this is from later (probably Arab) times, in the time of the Beis Hamikdash it had a straight lintel. Behind this gate there is a passage, 5.50 meters wide, 25.60 meters long, with a vaulted roof. This passage probably turned at its eastern end to the south, and had stairs there to go up. Being that the Har Habayis used to be much taller, it probably had a few turns until it reached the top. Possibly it opened up in front of Sha'ar Kiponos. (We can say that because of this, it was considered an extension of Sha'ar Kiponos, and possibly when the Kaftor Vaferach writes [Perek Vav] that Sha'ar Kiponos can be seen in the western wall, he is referring to this gate.)
In the times of the Geonim, this passage was turned into a Shul, called the cave, mentioned in documents from the Cairo Genizah. In the year 4793 (1033), there was an earthquake, which damaged this passage, and it is possible that the arched top of the gate is from the repair work done afterwards. The Yidden continued to use this shul until Yerushalayim was conquered by the crusaders in the year 4859 (1099). At some point while the crusaders ruled Yerushalayim, this passage was turned into a water cistern, as mentioned by Theoderich. Theoderich was a priest who visited Eretz Yisrael between the years 1171-1173. He writes about stairs that led down to a pool in this area, and that from this pool there is a passage. Dan Bahat assumes that he is referring to the cistern/passage by Warren's gate. This passage/cistern is number 30 in the commonly used (Wilson and Warrens') numbering system, and number 12 in Shick's numbering system, which is used by Gibson and Jacobson.
In 5741 (1981) Rabbi Meir Yehuda Getz, the Rav of the Kosel, secretly broke through this gate into the passage, and attempted to dig further, in order to find the Keilim of the Beis Hamikdash, like the Aron. Even though the Lubavitcher Rebbe had told him not to, warning him that anyone who found the Keilim would be putting his life in danger, Rav Getz still decided to proceed, since it would bring Moshiach closer. The Arabs, however, found out that he was digging there and went down, and a fight broke out. The Israeli government then ordered the gate to be resealed with concrete, and it remains sealed until today.
The Great Course
To the south of this gate are the four biggest stones in the Har Habayis walls. They are 3.3 meters tall, as tall as three regular stone courses. Going from north to south, they are 4.88 meters long, 13.7 meters long, 2.1 meters long, and 12.05 meters long. They are around two meters deep. This means that the longest one of these stones, which is called the Western Stone, weighs between 250 and 300 metric tonnes (575-330 short tons). It seems that the reason these huge stones were placed here is that behind this wall is a big vaulted chamber, and these heavy stones were put here to support and serve as a counterforce to this vault.
If you look at these stones in the Kosel tunnels, you will see that there are small holes in them. This was not done in the times of the Beis Hamikdash, but at some later point in history, when the area next to these stones was turned into a water cistern. In order that the plaster used for the cistern would stick to the stones, small holes were cut in them, and small peg-like stones were put in the holes. This helped the plaster stick to the wall.
Bahat, Dan. “Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling Along Herod’s Temple Mount Wall,” Biblical Archaeology Review 21.6 (1995): 30–35, 37–40, 42–47.
Bahat, Dan, review of "Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem", in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, volume 16 (1998).
Gibson, Shimon and David Jacobson (1996), Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: A Sourcebook on the Cisterns, Subterranean Chambers and Conduits of the Haram Al-Sharif
"The Western stone" in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Quest, by Leen Ritmeyer
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