Jerusalem’s Lost Grotto

There is a five acre quarry beneath the Muslim quarter of Old Jerusalem.  Known as Solomon’s Quarry, Zedekiah’s Cave, Zedekiah’s grotto, the Royal Quarry, and even at one point the “Cotton Cave”, the vast underground network of hewn rocks contains a significant amount of Biblical and historical significance.  The entrance to it is under the North wall, roughly 500 feet from the Damascus Gate (people can tour it now, Sunday through Thursday).

Biblically, the caves are supposed to be the caverns where the stone was mined to create Solomon’s Temple.  The main reason why the belief exists that it was the source of the Temple’s stone comes from a Bible reference in 1 Kings 6:7 which explains that there may be no iron tool used nor heard within the temple grounds.  So a rock quarry some several thousand or so meters from the Temple grounds made it the perfect staging ground for dressing and finalizing the shape of the rocks before dragging them to the building site.

Later stories explain that when King Zedekiah was running from the Chaldeans, he took the caves because there was a direct route to the “plains of Jericho”.  The story is that God busted open the cave mid flight and Zedekiah was captured (his sons killed in front of him and his eyes gouged out, old Bible stories rarely end without blood).  If you visit the caves today, you find that there is actually no true end to it.  It is purely a cave, not a tunnel, so there is actually no route to Jericho save a small stream that bursts from the wall on one end known as Zedekiah’s tears.  Legend has it, he cried as he fled and where his tears struck the ground, the stream burgeoned from the rock.

As far as more recent history of the Cave goes, when Jerusalem was under the control of the Ottoman Empire the cavern was used to store wool because it was out of the elements and not being used for much else.  During that time it was known as the “Wool Cave” for obvious reasons.  In 1540, Suleiman ordered the cave sealed when he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, likely to prevent invaders from using it to undermine the city.  There it remained sealed until 1854, when an American doctor was walking about with his son and his dog.  His dog caught a scent and started digging, partially unearthing the entrance to the Caves.

Since that time, Freemasons end up using the Quarry for rituals once a year or so, and quarried out stones in the 1940s to serve as cornerstones in Masonic lodges across the world.  People come and visit the Grotto from time to time with different expectations; some legends hold that when the Roman legion laid siege to the city, the priests of the Temple hid the golden implements and tools somewhere deep in the Quarry.  In more recent years, the Quarry gained some popularity because of a man’s claim that he found the Ark of the Covenant deep within the mine.  His argument was that directly below the point where Christ was crucified, the blood spilled deep through the ground and in a divinely circular way, landed upon the Ark in the mines below.  His claims had no evidence backing them, and the occasional reddish limestone in the cavern likely just sparked his belief that he had found the blood of Christ within a holy place.

Citations:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zedekiah%27s_Cave
http://goisrael.com/Tourism_Eng/Tourist%20Information/Jewish%20Themes/Jewish_Sites/Pages/Zedekiah%E2%80%99s%20Cave%20jew.aspx
http://www.generationword.com/jerusalem101/23-solomon-quarries.html
http://www.mastermason.com/fmisrael/quarries.html
http://livingdusty.com/zedekiahs-cave/

And the Bible Verse, I didn’t just make that “no Iron” rule up.
http://biblehub.com/1_kings/6-7.htm

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