Top historic sites in Jerusalem

Tower of David

The Tower of David is an ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. The citadel that stands today dates to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. It was built on the site of an earlier ancient fortification of the Hasmonean, Herodian-era, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods, after being destroyed repeatedly during the last decades of Crusader presence in t ...
Founded: c. 700 BC | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Western Wall

The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, in a large rectangular structure topped by a huge flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple ...
Founded: 19 BCE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount, a hill located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is one of the most important religious sites in the world. It has been venerated as a holy site for thousands of years by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The present site is dominated by three monumental structures from the early Umayyad period: the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, as well as four minarets. Herodia ...
Founded: 10th century BCE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Whilst the entire site on which the silver-domed mosque sits, along with the Dome of the Rock, seventeen gates, and four minarets, was itself historically known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, today a narrower definition prevails, and the wider compound is usually referred to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Mu ...
Founded: 705 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna, built on the site of the Roman temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which had in turn been built on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The original dome ...
Founded: 691 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate is one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city"s northwest side where the highway leads out to Nablus, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria, Damascus. In its current form, the gate was built in 1537 under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Beneath the current gate, the remains of an earli ...
Founded: 100-200 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Cathedral of Saint James

Nestled within a walled compound in the ancient Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Church of St James is one of the most ornately decorated places of worship in the Holy Land. This ancient church, part of which dates to AD 420, is the cathedral of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, in AD 301, and Armenian Christians ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is the only eastern gate of the Temple Mount and one of only two that used to offer access into the city from that side. It has been walled up since medieval times. The date of its construction is disputed and no archaeological work is allowed at the gatehouse, but opinions are shared between a late Byzantine and an early Umayyad date. The Hebrew name of th ...
Founded: 520 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Tomb of the Virgin Mary

Tomb of the Virgin Mary, is a Christian tomb in the Kidron Valley – at the foot of Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem – believed by Eastern Christians to be the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Sacred Tradition of Eastern Christianity teaches that the Virgin Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected o ...
Founded: 0-100 BCE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, a few steps away from the Muristan. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as 'Calvary' or 'Golgotha', and Jesus"s empty tomb, where h ...
Founded: 335 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Church of Saint John the Baptist

The Church of Saint John the Baptist in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem is a small Greek Orthodox church. In its current form, most of the above-ground church dates to the 11th century, and the crypt to the Late Roman or Byzantine period (between ca. 324 and 500 CE). According to the Greek Orthodox tradition, the head of St. John the Baptist was held in this church. The first structure, a north-south oriente ...
Founded: 324-500 CE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Kidron Valley

The Kidron Valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, continues east through the Judean desert in the West Bank, towards the Dead Sea. The central point of reference for the upper Kidron Valley is its confluence of Jerusalem"s richest concentration of rock-hewn tombs. This area, located on the periphery of the village Silwan, was one of the ...
Founded: 100-200 BCE | Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.