We all know that the Western Wall, the Kotel,is the last remnant of our Temple.
We also know that Jews from around the world gather here to pray. People write notes to G-d and place them between the ancient stones of the Wall.
In the year 37 BCE, Herod was appointed king in Jerusalem and he soon initiated a huge renovation project for the Temple. He hired many workers who toiled to make the Temple more magnificent and to widen the area of the Temple Mount by flattening the mountain peak and building four support walls around it.
The Western Wall is the western support wall built during this widening of the Temple Mount Plaza. What makes the Western Wall (and not one of the other three remaining support walls) the most special is its proximity to the location of the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
The Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE. Despite the destruction that took place, all four Temple Mount support walls remained standing.
Throughout the generations since the Temple’s destruction, the Western Wall was the remnant closest to the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies that was accessible to Jews.
The True Story
David Roberts, a Scottish-born artist, rose from poverty to become one of the most popular painters of the 19th century. He traveled extensively in the Middle East in 1839, creating well over 250 paintings and drawings beautifully depicting majestic and historic scenes of this ancient land.
In order to ensure the greatest possible accuracy in this particular painting, which was completed in 1849, Roberts called upon the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, an eyewitness to the Roman siege and the destruction of Jerusalem.
Josephus, Book XV, CHAPTER 11
How Herod Rebuilt The Temple;
As Also Concerning That Tower Which He Called Antonia.
And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work, that is, to build of himself the temple of God:
“I am at amity with and well regarded by the Romans, who, if I may so say, are the rulers of the whole world, I will do my endeavor to correct that imperfection, which hath arisen from the necessity of our affairs, and the slavery we have been under formerly, and to make a thankful return, after the most pious manner, to God, for what blessings I have received from him, by giving me this kingdom, and that by rendering his temple as complete as I am able.”..
Templeplateau 45 by 45 meters.
Temple 11 by 5.5 meters (height: 3.5)
Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length a hundred cubits (45 meters), and in height twenty additional cubits, which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations 23 fell down; and this part it was that we resolved to raise again in the days of Nero.
Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits (11 meters), their height was eight (3.5 meters), and their breadth about twelve (5.5 meters); and the whole structure, as also the structure of the royal cloister, was on each side much lower, but the middle was much higher…
The temple had doors also at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height with the temple itself…
He encompassed the entire temple with very large cloisters… There was a large wall to both the cloisters..
The hill was a rocky ascent, that declined by degrees towards the east parts of the city, till it came to an elevated level. He built a wall below, beginning at the bottom, which was encompassed by a deep valley.
And at the south side he laid rocks together, and bound them one to another with lead, and included some of the inner parts, till it proceeded to a great height…
The hill was walled all round, and in compass four furlongs, [the distance of] each angle containing in length a furlong…
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 for the city lay over against the temple in the manner of a theater, and was encompassed with a deep valley along the entire south quarter…
The Antonia Citadel
470 by 300 meters
Now on the north side [of the temple] was built a citadel, whose walls were square, and strong, and of extraordinary firmness.
This citadel was built by the kings of the Asamonean race, who were also high priests before Herod, and they called it the Tower, in which were reposited the vestments of the high priest, which the high priest only put on at the time when he was to offer sacrifice.
When Herod the king of the Jews had fortified it more firmly than before, in order to secure and guard the temple, he gratified Antonius, who was his friend, and the Roman ruler, and then gave it the name of the Tower of Antonia.
There was an occult passage built for the king; it led from Antonia to the inner temple, at its eastern gate; over which he also erected for himself a tower…
Wikipedia info: In around 19 BCE, Herod the Great extended the Mount’s natural plateau by enclosing the area with four massive retaining walls and filling the voids. This artificial expansion resulted in a large flat expanse which today forms the eastern section of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The trapezium shaped platform measures 488 m along the west, 470 m along the east, 315 m along the north and 280 m along the south, giving a total area of approximately 150,000 m2 (37 acres).
Antiquities 18.4.3, Bellum 1.21.1 and 5.5.8:
Antonia Ford, as the Jews see it
A small building for 6000 soldiers
Now as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the temple; of that on the west, and that on the north; it was erected upon a rock of fifty cubits in height, and was on a great precipice; it was the work of king Herod…
In the first place, the rock itself was covered over with smooth pieces of stone, from its foundation, both for ornament, and that any one who would either try to get up or to go down it might not be able to hold his feet upon it.
Next to this, and before you come to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall three cubits high; but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia itself was built upon, to the height of forty cubits.
The inward parts had the largeness and form of a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps; insomuch that, by having all conveniences that cities wanted, it might seem to be composed of several cities…
And as the entire structure resembled that of a tower, it contained also four other distinct towers at its four corners; whereof the others were but fifty cubits high; whereas that which lay upon the southeast corner was seventy cubits high, that from thence the whole temple might be viewed.
There always lay in this tower
a Roman legion = 3600-6000 soldiers
But on the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard (for there always lay in this tower a Roman legion = 3600-6000 soldiers) went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people; for the temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the temple; and in that tower were the guards of those three.
The hill on which the tower of Antonia stood was the highest…; it was the only place that hindered the sight of the temple on the north.