DATA RE THE WESTERN WALL IN JERUSALEM
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This page (there are now Pages 2, 3, 4 & 5 also) is created initially as a place to show you an image of the Western Wall, the work of French painter & sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). In an earlier page on this total site, I stated that I had found a reference to a Gérôme oil painting of the Western Wall in Jerusalem being offered at Sotheby's in New York on Dec. 10, 2001. The sale price estimate was U.S. $1.5/$2 million. It would seem not to have sold, however, & I have so far not been able to find an image of the work. But now I think that I have. This is probably it! Or most of an engraving of it, which is the best I can do (I cut the image so you can hopefully see it all without scrolling).
An update re the above, but it would seem to be old news. On May 8, 1999, collector Jerry Davis bought two Gérôme paintings at auction. One was the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, ca. 1875, an oil on canvas of 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in., which was estimated at U.S. $400,000 - U.S. $600,000) but sold for U.S. $2,312,500 ~ against a very persistent phone bidder, I read. The data does not seem to jive with the previous paragraph however. But here is the painting that Jerry Davis acquired.
But like all of my pages, this page will expand as I introduce additional data that interests me & may well interest you also. But a reminder as always. This page and the site to which the above link takes you, are designed for a 1024 x 768 screen setting.
The next image is a composite image with the western wall Gérôme painting, a portrait of the artist & part of another engraving with the artist at work in his Paris studio. A copy of the print at left, sold on e-Bay for U.S. $10.49 in Mar. 2003, but the webmaster was asleep at the switch & did not bid. And, more recently, copies have sold on e-Bay for $18, $36, $23.22 and $13.05 (in time sequence - all in U.S. dollars). Probably many more later on. It surely is a beautiful print. I have not followed this print for a number of years.
The Webmaster has been fortunate to have travelled to Jerusalem a few years ago. As I write these words, in Apr. 2002, Israel is essentially at war with the Palestinians. The Israeli military occupies Palestinian cities & Palestinian suicide bombers daily kill & maim innocent people including women & children, even Arab Israeli's. Travel to that part of the world is at your peril, today. Hopefully, saner heads will one day prevail in the region, & a compromise will be reached that both Israelis and Palestinians can live with. But there is no sign of that compromise today, alas, & step by step the leaders of both sides make the situation worse. I hope that I will live to see, at long last, a permanent peace in the region.
But I digress! This page is about the Western Wall!
Should you visit Jerusalem, I urge you to take, as I did, a walking tour that takes in the tunnels under the Western Wall. Most people do not know that they even exist. Only relatively recently have they been opened to the public. I learned that the base of the wall is, in fact, 25 feet below the level of today's plaza & even deeper to the south. So keep that in mind as you view the actual wall or view Gérôme's fine painting above. The wall extends far to the north & when one descends to its base you will see what to me at least was an astonishing sight. The wall is a giant retaining wall constructed by Herod the Great in 18 BCE & designed to support the 40 acre platform above, the platform on which was once constructed the Jewish Temple & today is constructed the Dome of the Rock & the El-Aqsa Mosque. The wall leans inwards as it must & the rocks neatly overlap one another as they lean into the hill to support the weight from above. You will be faced with a rock, precisely placed in the wall, of simply enormous size. How big, I hear you ask? It is an amazing 42 feet long, 11 feet high & 14 feet deep. Sit and think about that before reading further!
A truly monster rock! It dwarfs the rocks of most other ancient monuments. It originally weighed 550/600 tons (I say that because the rock was apparently damaged in later periods). How did they quarry a rock of such size? And move it at all let alone move it into such a precise position? It would be virtually impossible to do today with all of our modern technology. And it is not alone! There are smaller rocks beside it - puny jobs of a mere 400 or so tons in weight! It is all truly astonishing! The rocks are all decorated in a distinctive way & Herod cut the bedrock at the north end of the tunnel to make the bedrock look man made. Go visit. In fact do not miss it.
As visitors to this total site will know, I like to learn myself & pass that knowledge on through these pages. From where I sit today, I wish I had taken a tape measure with me when I visited the tunnels under the Western Wall! The dimensions and weight as indicated above were those mentioned by our guide. But on different and prominent websites, the length of the big stone ranges from 41 feet to 45 feet. And the weight of the rock ranges from a low of 390 tons to a high of 630 tons. Without electronic sounding equipment one cannot, of course, check the depth (into the rock face) but the length and height should be the work of moments to establish. And I gather that the experts have a good idea where the rock was quarried so its weight should be also a relatively easy matter to compute given some good dimensions. I will try to find the definitive answer to this 2000 year old puzzle! Stay tuned!
The following words appeared on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"From the times of King Solomon to the return from the Babylonian exile and the Hasmonean period (tenth to first centuries BCE), the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was a relatively small platform built on top of Mount Moriah and its highest point was the Stone of Foundation; this was the site of the Temple. King Herod's greatest building project was to double the area of the Temple Mount by incorporating part of the hill to the northwest (which had to be levelled and on which he built the Antonia Fortress) and by filling up parts of the surrounding valleys. Herod transformed the Second Temple into an edifice of splendor and surrounded the Temple Mount on its four sides with massive retaining walls. The walls, founded on bedrock, were built of large ashlar stones with beautifully dressed margins. Each course was set back about 2 - 3 cm. from the course below it; the stones weigh some five tons each, the corner blocks tens of tons....."
One final comment. I am always mystified to read in the newspapers & most websites that the Western Wall is part of the ancient Jewish Temple. Is the wall significant to the Jewish people? Yes, of course it is & it has been so since time immemorial.. But is it a part of the original Jewish Temple? I do not personally think so. The ancient Temple would seem to have been located centrally in the 40 acre platform above but there are a great many opinions as to exactly where (but that is a whole separate subject!). And the wall, immense and impressive as it is, is but a retaining wall.
On the Aish.com website is an extensive tour of the tunnels, complete with images. And next a page that used to discuss how the wall is correctly named ~ Western Wall or Wailing Wall. But that link no longer brings you to the correct page though the data is probably still there somewhere. More links to come as I locate them.
And here is a composite image of the big rock, courtesy of Dr. Carl Rasmussen & the good folks at www.HolyLandPhotos.org. On the right is the sight that greets you as you approach the rock down a flight of stairs. But you cannot see all of the rock which stretches out of sight to both left & right. You can get a good idea of the superb condition of the rock from the image on the left. The small rocks at the top were added when the wall was rebuilt (centuries after the destruction of the site by the Romans in 70 CE) so the mosque could be built on the platform above. The holes in the wall? They were, I learn, cut for the purpose of stabilizing the waterproof plaster that once covered the entire wall when it was part of a rain water cistern. Cistern access would have been by rope & bucket from the buildings above. Then, as now, water was essential for life & was never wasted.
Now there are lots of images available on the WWW of the Western Wall or Wailing Wall. But very few of them, to be honest about it, are very good images, sad to say. As you may know, this site has consistently used only quality images, courtesy of the many photographers & artists whose work is featured. So next, I am pleased to present a composite image of the Wall, the major part of which is part only of a fine copyrighted image of the Wall, courtesy of FreeStockPhotos.com who grant free usage of images for use on personal websites such as this. In fact the right image, of the old pavement at the base of the south Temple Wall, also comes from that source. I thank them! Also in my composite image is a painting of the Western Wall by a German artist named Gustav Bauernfeind (1848-1904). It would seem that an original painting of the Wailing Wall by this talented artist sold at auction on Nov. 10, 2001 (Christie's New York) for U.S. $534,000. I think this was the painting but I am not absolutely sure. And last but not least a small image of human interest - just one of the millions who have travelled to Jerusalem over the centuries to worship at the Western Wall. I found it as a thumbnail, the work of Israeli news photographer Shlomo Arad. Shlomo, I will gladly remove the image at your request - I have been unable to find a way to contact you.
I did find, in my search, a truly superb image of the Wall that I would like to feature in these pages if permission is granted. You would enjoy viewing it, I am sure. It was taken in the fall of 1999, by Rex and Julie Geissler. If you check via search engine re Rex and Julie Geissler, you will find a wealth of data available on line including a fascinating series of images & data re the Search for Noah's Ark.