Charles Warren in Jerusalem … continued

By Kevin Shillington

Charles Warren was a keen Freemason, having already at the age of 23 been the Master of a Lodge in Gibraltar. Before my visit to Jerusalem I had learned that Warren had been involved in a Masonic ritual in a cavern, somewhere deep underneath the Old City. There were two possible candidates for the site: one called ‘The Masonic Hall’, the other ‘King Solomon’s Quarry.’ A recent book on Warren’s Freemasonry appears to claim that these two sites were one and the same – hence my need to clarify the issue.[i] The site known as the ‘Masonic Hall’ is a chamber that Warren tunnelled his way into in February 1869. It was half-filled with rubble and soil, but rising out of the centre of the earth floor was a smooth pillar with a broken top. The scene reminded Warren of a traditional Masonic myth and so he named the chamber the ‘Masonic Hall’ (Figs 1 & 2). The famous war artist William Simpson, also a senior Freemason, was visiting Jerusalem a month later and he sketched the scene. As can be seen from Simpson’s sketch, the column was originally the support for twin arches that lined the roof.

 

The ‘Masonic Hall’ as drawn by William Simpson, from a copy in the Masonic journal Ars Quatour Coronati, 1888. Warren ordered the clearing of the rubble, which, when he first entered the chamber, reached up to the mark on the column.

Figure 1. The ‘Masonic Hall’ as drawn by William Simpson, from a copy in the Masonic journal Ars Quatour Coronati, 1888. Warren ordered the clearing of the rubble, which, when he first entered the chamber, reached up to the mark on the column. By the time Simpson made his sketch, the hall had been partially cleared of rubble.

Figure 2. The ‘Masonic Hall’ today, part of the ‘Western Walls’ archaeological complex. Warren broke in through the hole in the roof – the dark patch against the back wall, right of centre. The earth at that time was two-thirds of the way up the column. [Photo KS]

Figure 2. The ‘Masonic Hall’ today, part of the ‘Western Walls’ archaeological complex. Warren broke in through the hole in the roof – the dark patch against the back wall, right of centre. The earth at that time was two-thirds of the way up the column. [Photo KS]

The other site was Zedekiah’s Cave, also known as King Solomon’s Quarry. The cave, long-known from ancient and medieval times, had been blocked up, but the entrance was rediscovered by Dr James Barclay in 1854, or rather by Dr Barclay’s dog, that disappeared down through a hole into the cave while being taken for a walk. The entrance is just outside the city wall near Damascus Gate and the cave extends through numerous chambers for several hundred metres. It is clearly the product of human quarrying and when Warren saw the evidence that stone masons had cut huge blocks out of the walls of the cavern, he convinced himself that this must be the work of King Solomon’s stone masons. In Freemasonry tradition, the latter were the original Freemasons, from whom the modern ones take their inspiration. What better place to hold an unofficial Masonic meeting?

Dr Robert Morris, an American Freemason, visited Jerusalem in May 1868 and Warren proposed that they hold a meeting in the far depths of King Solomon’s Quarry, as near as possible to the site of the Temple Mount above (see Figs 3,4 & 5).

Figure 3. The Freemason Leon Zeldis of Hertzlya kindly allowed me to see his copy of this very rare book by the American Freemason, Robert Morris and to make photocopies of the relevant pages that recorded the Masonic meeting in Zedekiah’s Cave.

Figure 3. The Freemason Leon Zeldis of Herzlya kindly allowed me to see his copy of this very rare book by the American Freemason, Robert Morris and to make photocopies of the relevant pages that recorded the Masonic meeting in Zedekiah’s Cave.

Figure 4. An illustration of the cavern in Zedekiah’s Cave, as reproduced in Morris’s book. The etching was based upon Morris’s account of the Masonic meeting held there in May 1868, which describes a pillar in the centre of the cavern and a flat rock which they were able to use as an altar for their ritual.

Figure 5.

Figure 5. The author in one of the caverns of the Cave, with the mason’s marks clearly visible in the roof and the far wall. In fact the quarrying was far more likely to be of the Herodian and Medieval periods and seems to have been blocked up in the 16th Century. Photo KS.

There is no contemporary claim that Warren or anybody else held a Masonic meeting in the ‘Masonic Hall’. In modern times, Freemasons rarely, but occasionally, follow Warren’s example and hold meetings in Zedekiah’s Cave.

[i] C.N. Macdonald, WARREN! The Bond of Brotherhood (Colin Neil Macdonald, Singapore, 2007), p56.

Charles Warren: Pioneer of Jerusalem Archaeology, 1867-70

By Kevin Shillington

The larger project, of which this forms a part, is a full biography of Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927), Royal Engineer extraordinaire. Warren first came to prominence in the mid-Victorian Age as ‘Jerusalem Warren’, the man generally credited with pioneering archaeological excavation in, around, and under, the Old City of Jerusalem, and in particular, the Haram al-Sharif (which Warren translated as ‘The Noble Sanctuary’), known to Jews as the ‘Temple Mount’. As someone with no previous knowledge of Jerusalem or its archaeology, I felt it essential that I ‘walk in the footsteps of Warren’ as well as talk to current archaeologists about the significance of Warren and his work, and the PEF was kind enough to award me a grant to cover my flight and hotel: 20 October – 1 November 2014.

First I needed to understand the topography of Jerusalem – extremely complicated and very difficult to visualise from purely archival and literary study.

Fig.1: This view of the south-east corner of the Haram was taken from the top of the Mount of Olives. The wall in shadow to the right of the picture is the eastern face, that in sunlight, the southern face. The wall leading away to the top left of the picture, alongside the main road, is the southern wall of the Old City. At the bottom of the picture is the sharp fall-away of the Kidron Valley. I found I could not make sense of this topography until I had walked round and through the entire Old City. [Photo: KS]

Fig.1: View of the south-east corner of the Haram taken from the top of the Mount of Olives. [Photo: KS]

The wall in shadow to the right of Fig 1 is the eastern face of the Haram, the wall in sunlight is the southern face. The wall leading away to the top left of the picture, alongside the main road, is the southern wall of the Old City. At the bottom of the picture is the sharp fall-away of the Kidron Valley. I found I could not make sense of this topography until I had walked round and through the entire Old City.

Understanding Warren’s Jerusalem in the light of today’s Old City is aided by illustration (Figs 2-4):

Fig.2:  The buttress of Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall of the Haram, photographed by Felix Bonfils in the 1850s and thus, as it appeared when ‘discovered’ by the American theologian Edward Robinson in 1852. [Picture reproduced by kind permission of Fr Jean-Michel Tarragon, from his collection at the Ecole Bibliotheque, Jerusalem.]

Fig.2: The buttress of Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall of the Haram, photographed by Felix Bonfils in the 1850s and thus, as it appeared when ‘discovered’ by the American theologian Edward Robinson in 1852. [Picture reproduced by kind permission of Fr Jean-Michel Tarragon, from his collection at the Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem.]

Fig.3: Robinson’s Arch in Warren’s day, from the famous Simpson etching of 1867 [original in PEF Archive], with Warren seated with drawing board on his lap.

Fig.3: Robinson’s Arch in Warren’s day, from the famous Simpson etching of 1867 [original in PEF Archive], with Warren seated with drawing board on his lap.

Fig.4 : Robinson’s Arch 147 years later (2014) with, in the centre of the paved street, a metal fence guarding the underground access to Warren’s actual shaft, sunk in the picture above. Warren excavated down to bedrock (a practice which he maintained in all his shafts), which is the same depth again as that between today’s ground level and the base of Robinson’s Arch.[Photo: KS]

Fig.4 : Robinson’s Arch 147 years later (2014) with, in the centre of the paved street, a metal fence guarding the underground access to Warren’s actual shaft, sunk in the picture above. Warren excavated down to bedrock (a practice which he maintained in all his shafts), which is the same depth again as that between today’s ground level and the base of Robinson’s Arch.[Photo: KS]

I was fortunate to have Dr Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who for the past three years has been “continuing Warren’s research”, to guide me through the ‘warren’ of Warren’s ‘underground Jerusalem’ (Figs 5-7).

Fig 5, Slomit & piece of Rob. Arch DSC_0793

Fig 5: Dr Weksler-Bdolah showing me a reproduction of a large piece of rock that had fallen from Robinson’s actual Arch, probably during the Roman destruction of AD 70. [The original is in the Museum]. It was part of the underground ‘rubble’ that Warren blasted his way through with dynamite, causing damage to the rock itself, as can be seen from this picture. [Photo: KS]

Fig.6: One of the ‘galleries’ that Warren and his team excavated below Robinson’s Arch, from a copy of the original Simpson painting in the PEF Archive, showing Warren with lighted candle peering round a huge rock that blocked the roof of his tunnel.

Fig.6: One of the ‘galleries’ that Warren and his team excavated below Robinson’s Arch, from a copy of the original Simpson painting in the PEF Archive, showing Warren with lighted candle peering round a huge rock that blocked the roof of his tunnel.

Fig.7: The author, with electric torch in hand, in the same place today, which has been excavated much deeper for easier passage than in Warren’s day. The rail above was for transporting buckets of rubble cleared in modern times. [Photo: PS]

Fig.7: The author, with electric torch in hand, in the same place today, which has been excavated much deeper for easier passage than in Warren’s day. The rail above was for transporting buckets of rubble cleared in modern times. [Photo: PS]

To be continued …