1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Jewish Architecture: Tombs of the Kings of Judah

(Part 22)

Jewish Architecture (cont.)

Tombs of the Kings of Judah

The excavations recently made, at the expense of the Palestine Exploration Fund, have disclosed considerable remains of the massive ancient masonry, and of the cisterns, conduits, &c. but, with this exceptions, no part of old Jerusalem appears to be extant. There are, however, some objects, formerly considered to belong to Jewish times, that should be mentioned. There are, first what are called the tombs of the Kings of Judah. There are a number of sepulchral chambers hew out of the solid rock, and containing sarchopagi. They vary from 10 to 20 feet square, and are entered, exactly like the tombs of Beni Hassan, by a portico in antis, about 40 feet wide. There are two columns and two pilaster in front, of Greek Doric character, about 13 feet high. The most curious feature of these is, that a broad band, about 3 feet wide, richly sculptured with foliages, rounds down on each side four and five feet and over the columns horizontally. Above this last, quite independent of the lower construction, is a regular Doric architrave and frieze, of a character between Grecian and Roman; this is ornamented with triglyphs, paterae, and foliage. In front of the portico is a large court-yard, about 100 feet square.

In the valley of Jehoshaphat, near Jerusalem, are three extremely curious relics; two stand alone, on platforms excavated from the rock, and the third is scarped into the rock itself. The first is called the tomb of Absalom. It is a square building with a solid wall, in which are engaged Ionic columns, about 13 feet high; over this is a Doric entablature with triglyphs, and an altar, surmounted by a very curious sort of hollow-sided cupola of trumpet-mouth section and a terminal. The whole, including the flight of steps, is about 60 feet high.

Another similar building, of about the same size, is commonly called the tomb of the prophet Zechariah. This is surmounted by a bold quarter hollow and fillet exactly like those on the propylons of Egypt, which have been already described.

The third building is entirely rock-cut, and consists of a large façade, about 90 feet wide and 100 feet high. This is reported to be the place to which the apostles retired before the siege of Jerusalem. Below is a plain face, about 45 feet high, on each side of which are wings with two pilasters, both running up to the top of the building. Between these is a species of portico, about 40 feet wide, with columns and pilasters, of nearly pure Grecian Doric. There are also several other rock-cut tombs or sepulchres scattered about in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, but none of them possess much architectural interest. One is called the sepulchre of Jehoshaphat.

From the character of the architecture it is incredible that these buildings can have anything like the age ascribed to them. The Ionic capitals are evidently Roman, and therefore cannot date earlier than the conquest by that people; probably they are of the time of Herod; while the Egyptian cornices show that the traditional ornaments of that people had not been entirely forgotten. Besides this, the general plan of a temple, in antis, scarped into a rock, so entirely resembles the work at Beni Hassan, that it is impossible to deny that these very interesting remains strongly corroborate the views of Canina, that the architecture of the early temples was at least based on the architecture of the Egyptians.

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