New Integrated Knowledge based approachs to the protection of cultural heritage from Earthquake-induced Risk

The Old City
Conserving the Engineers’ Tombs in the Jaffa Gate Plaza
OrdererJerusalem Development Authority
DurationNovember - December 2008
Implemented by: Arch. Avi Mashiah
Arch. technician Yuval Avraham
Eyal Kacho
Meir (Mark) Avrahami
Ariel Yogev

This project is just one of the conservation measures that are being done to the monuments in the Old City basin which the Jerusalem Development Authority is promoting.

The Ottoman engineers’ burial compound is located near Jaffa Gate, inside of the city wall and next to Omar Ibn al-Khattab Square – the gate plaza. The plaza extends between Jaffa Gate and David Street in the east and the “Qishla” (the police station) to the south, on the border of the Armenian Quarter.

In the past this open area was the main thoroughfare of Jerusalem and important economic and commercial institutions were located there, among them the Banco de Roma, the Anglo-Palestine Bank, the German bank of Johannes Frutiger, the “Grand New Hotel” which is today the Imperial Hotel, as well as Yerahmiel Amdorsky’s hotel. In addition to these there was the Austrian post office, the Thomas Cook Tourism and Travel Company and the studios of a number of Jerusalem’s famous photographers.

The tombs of the two engineers are today located in a small courtyard delimited by a metal fence, between two symmetrical two-story buildings that were erected at the end of the nineteenth century. Legend has it that these are the tombs of the engineers who constructed Jerusalem’s city walls and after they left David’s Tomb on Mount Zion unprotected and outside the city wall, Sultan Suleiman ordered them beheaded and their graves were dug next to Jaffa Gate to their everlasting disgrace. Another legend says that the sultan did this precisely because he was so impressed by their work and feared that other rulers would hire them to build even more magnificent structures.

In an historic engraving from the year 1657 one can see that the tombs were located in a covered structure (Fig. 1), in a fallow area between the city’s buildings and the city wall. The tombs are c. 1 m long and c. 0.5 m wide. They are made of stone and the tops of them are arched-shaped cement castings. A special stylized ornament of a turban – a Turkish cloth hat – was preserved on one of the tombs’ castings. Today the tombs are situated c. 1.2 m higher than the level of the gate plaza (Fig. 2).

The legends that were woven about the engineers’ tombs reflect the cultural importance of the place. From an artistic standpoint the ornaments on the tombstones are commonplace, especially in Turkey, and are rare in Israel. From an urban standpoint, their proximity to bustling Jaffa Gate places them in the midst of a vibrant urban existence. They are visible to the pedestrians that pass nearby and because of this they also constitute a jumping off point for guided tours. From an architectural standpoint the site is located between two symmetrical buildings that are important to the Jewish Yishuv. In the past the buildings were used for commercial purposes and today they are occupied by the Ministry of Tourism and the East Jerusalem Development Company. The buildings were constructed to conform to and take into account the existence of the tombs. Cypress trees were planted in the courtyard between the buildings. This courtyard, where the tombs and several trees are located, interrupts the built sequence and provides a unique corner in the landscape of the Old City.

Evaluation of the Physical Condition
The engineers’ tombs and the courtyard were in a neglected state and considerable damage was apparent in them:
• A section of the stone at the end of one of the tombstones was detached and in danger of falling.
• The ornament from the top of one of the tombs had disappeared (probably another turban).
• A round stone that stood at the top of a stone column at the front of the wall was lost.
• Modern PVC plumbing that was installed on the facades which face the courtyard was both visually and physically detrimental to the site.
• Two of the three historic trees in the courtyard, a fig tree and cypress tree were dead, and the fig tree endangered the public and the tombstones at the site.
• A previous intervention consisting of a layer of cement that was poured on top of the original stone pavement had caused damage to the stone. Apart from this, the cement layer was cracked and water seeped through it. The water washed away the mortar from the side of the wall facing the gate plaza and undermined its stability.
• The metal fence was corroded. The anchoring of the metal fence to the stone wall and the center column at the front of the courtyard caused the mortar to crumble.

Conservation Action
In conserving the tombs we were asked that the place be returned to the condition it was in at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The conservation work on the tombs included:
• Reattaching a detached stone ornament from one of the tombstones.
• Delicate conservation work to the tombs’ decorations.
• Replacing missing mortar and plaster on the sides of the tombstones.
• Sealing the area where the tombstones meet the courtyard floor.

The conservation work in the courtyard included:
• Removing the poured cement layer on top of the historic pavement, preparing the slopes of the pavement in order to improve drainage and replacing missing mortar between the pavement joints.
• Pointing up the joints in the façade facing the gate plaza, in the stone column and in the stone walls that abut the buildings.
• The fig tree that was infested with insects and was in danger of collapsing was pruned.
• Restoring the stone sphere that stood at the top of the column at the front of the courtyard based on historical photographs.

The facades that face the courtyard were treated in the following manner:
• The metal fence was treated and painted.
• Two openings in the buildings that face the courtyard were sealed.
• Metal parts and pipes that were not being used were removed from the facades.
• The plumbing that was being used was painted a light color.

The conservation work took one and a half months to complete and was finished in December 2008.
It was recommended that the physical state of the tombs be monitored on a regular basis and that routine maintenance also be performed in the compound.

To view the figures, click on the figure caption
1. A part of an illustration from the year 1657 which depicts the tomb structure between the gate and the city’s buildings. Courtesy of Hebrew University, Department of Geography.

2. Jaffa Gate at the beginning of the twentieth century, looking west. On the right are the symmetrical buildings that flank the pair of tombs. Matson Collection.

3. View of the exterior side of the wall prior to the conservation work. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

4. View of the courtyard prior to dismantling the poured cement layer, pruning the tree and conserving the tombstones. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

5. View of the tombstone and the stone turban ornament atop it before the conservation work. Photograph Yuval Avraham 2008.

6. View of the tombstone and the courtyard before the conservation work. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

7. Painting the exposed plumbing in the courtyard. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

8. Preparing the tomb for reattaching the stone ornament. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

9. View of the exterior side of the wall after the conservation work. Photograph Yuval Avraham 2008.

10. View of the tombstone and the stone turban ornament at the top of it after the conservation work. Photograph Avi Mashiah 2008.

Additional Projects
 Derekh Hebron - Conservation of the aqueduct to ancient Jerusalem
 The Western Wall, The Machkame Building - Conservation of the Southern Facade of the Machkema Building
 City of David - Conservation measures accompanying an excavation in the north of the City of David
 City of David - Conservation of the Shiloah Pool and preparing it for the public
 The Western Wall Tunnel - Conservation Report for 2005
 The Western Wall Tunnels, The Hasmonean Room - Conservation Treatment of the Hasmonean Room
 The Western Wall Tunnels, The Miqve’ot (ritual baths) - An excavation accompanied by conservation, conservation of the miqve’ot
 City of David, Givati Car Park - Stabilization and post-excavation conservation
 The Old City, Western Wall Tunnels - The Rabbi Getz Synagogue, Conservation and renewal
 The Western Wall Tunnels, The Secret Passage - Conservation and stabilization after excavation
 Zahal Square - Implementation of conservation measures
 The Old City - Conservation of the western ritual bath (miqve) in the Western Wall tunnel
 The Western Wall Tunnels, The Hasmonean Aqueduct - Conservation Measures for Removing Hazards
 The Western Wall Tunnels - Removing Hazards from the Hall with the Temple Mount Model
 The Old City - Conservation of the Church of St. Mary of the Knights (The German Church)
 The Western Wall - Hazard Removal
 Jerusalem - Maintaining Antiquities Sites in the Western Part of the City
 City of David - Conservation Maintenance
 The Wall Builders Garden - Conservation Measures
 Akeldama - The Conservation of a Crusader Burial Structure
 Ophel City Walls - Conservation of the Walls
 The Wall Builders Garden - Conservation and Development
 Mount Zion - Conservation Measures at David’s Tomb
 The Old City - A Plaster 'Pilot' Project in the Crusader Cardo
 The Ades Synagogue - Conservation of the Murals, 2013

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