The walls of Jerusalem tell the tale of the city’s long history. The Hebrew Bible includes accounts of expansions in the early monarchy, and post-exile restoration work carried out by Nehemiah.* Later Herodian walls were destroyed in the 11th century C.E., and the 16th century walls built by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I still stand today. After a large-scale, five-year preservation project, the walls of Jerusalem have been restored to a splendor not seen in nearly 500 years.
On Monday, September 10, 2012, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the completion of the conservation and stabilization of St. Stephen’s Gate, also known as the Lions’ Gate. The Lions’ Gate is the seventh and final gate preserved in the project carried out by the Jerusalem Development Company, the Prime Minister’s Office and the IAA. Ra’anan Kislev, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department, stated that “The project is one of the most complicated, largest and important ever conducted in the country and the best professionals of the Conservation Department – architects, conservators and engineers – were involved.”
The expansive project included the photography, study and preservation (when necessary) of every stone in the 2.35 mile-long walls. The project involved dismantling and rebuilding over 21,000 square feet of stones in the wall, the cleaning of over 50,000 square feet of wall surface, the stabilization and sealing of large sections of the tops of the wall and the preservation of artistic masonry. The final portion of the project, the restoration of the Lion’s Gate in the east wall, included the stabilization of the sentry tower and the conservation of the feline reliefs.