Zedekiah's Cave – also known as Solomon's Quarries – is a 5-acre (20,000 m2) underground meleke
limestone quarry that runs the length of five city blocks under the Muslim Quarter of the Old
City of Jerusalem. It was carved over a period of several thousand years and is a remnant of the
biggest quarry in Jerusalem, having once stretched all the way from Jeremiah's Grotto and the
Garden Tomb – a traditional Protestant site of Jesus's burial – to the walls of the Old City.
In addition to Zedekiah's Cave and Solomon's Quarries, this site has been called Zedekiah's
Grotto, Suleiman's Cave, the Royal Caverns (or Royal Caves or Royal Quarries), and Korah's Cave.
The Arabic name Migharat al-Kitan, or "Cotton Cave", has also been used; the cavern is thought
to have been once used as a storage place for cotton.
The entrance to Zedekiah's Cave is just beneath the Old City wall, between the Damascus and
Herod Gates, about 500 feet (150 m) east of the former. Beyond the narrow entrance, the cave
slopes down into a vast 300-foot-long auditorium-like chamber. Drops of water, known as
"Zedekiah's tears", trickle through the ceiling (See below for the legend associating the cave
with King Zedekiah.)
Beyond the "auditorium", are a series of artificial galleries hewn by ancient stonecutters into
chaotic, sometimes bizarre, patterns and formations. Paths give access to every corner of the
quarry system, which takes at least 30 minutes to explore thoroughly. Chisel marks are visible
in many sections and in some galleries huge, nearly finished building blocks destined for some
long-ago structure are locked into the rock where the stonecutters left them centuries ago. In a
few places the stones are marked by Arabic, Greek, Armenian and English charcoal and engraved
graffiti (e.g., "W. E. Blackstone Jan. 1889"). Several plaques explaining some of the myriad
legends associated with the site have been mounted on the cave walls.
From entrance to the furthest point, the cave extends about 650 feet (200 m). Its maximum width
is about 330 feet (100 m) and its depth is generally about 30 feet (9.1 m) below the street
level of the Muslim Quarter.
Only the mouth of Zedekiah's Cave is a natural phenomenon. The interior of the cavern was carved
by slaves and laborers over a period of several thousand years; precisely when quarrying began
is impossible to determine.
Herod the Great (73 BC – 4 BC) certainly used the main quarry at Zedekiah's Cave for building
blocks in the renovation of the Temple and its retaining walls, including what is known today as
the Western (Wailing) Wall. Stone from the quarry may also have been utilized for the building
projects of Herod Agrippa I (10 BC - 44 AD). The subterranean quarry would have been usable in
all seasons and any weather. .
When the Roman Jewish writer Flavius Josephus (37 - 100 AD) mentions the "Royal Caverns" of the
Old City, it is thought that he is probably referring to Zedekiah's Cave.
The midrash known as Numbers Rabbah (1512) mentions (and exaggerates) the cave when it says that
"One who observed the Sabbath in a cave, even though it be like the cave of Zedekiah, which was
eighteen miles long, may walk through the whole of it...".
Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), the Ottoman sultan who built the present walls around the
Old City, also apparently mined the quarry, ultimately sealing it up around 1540 because of
The site was then lost to history for over 300 years until, in 1854, the American missionary
James Turner Barclay was walking his dog one day. According to the story, the dog, following a
fox’s scent, dug through dirt near the Old City wall and suddenly disappeared through an
opening. After nightfall, Barclay and his two sons, dressed in Arab garb and carrying candles,
slithered through the newly opened crack to discover the vast cavern as well as the skeletons of
previous visitors. 
The Freemasons of Israel hold an annual ceremony in Zedekiah's Cave, and consider it one of the
most revered sites in their history. (Masonic ritual claims that King Solomon was their first
Grand Master - and some Freemasons feel that the cave is definitely Solomon's quarry.)
According to Matti Shelon, head of the Israeli Freemasons, "Since the 1860s we have been holding
ceremonies in the cave". According to the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of
Israel, the site "has special meaning for Mark Master Masons and the Royal Arch Masons in
particular". Starting in the days of the British Mandate (1920s), the cave was used for the
ceremony of Mark Master Masons. Although this practice was temporarily suspended between the
years 1948 and 1968, the impressive ceremony of the consecration of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch
Chapter of the State of Israel was commenced again in the spring of 1969, and ever since then
the Mark degree has been performed in the caves on the average of once a year. 
In 1873, French archeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau uncovered a crude carving of a cherub in a
small niche in the cave. It had two long narrow wings that opened like a pair of scissors, a
curled tail and a bearded human head under a conical headdress. (The site is now marked by a
plaque.) As cherubs were a popular Old Testament motif (especially famous are the two giant
cherubs flanking the Holy Ark in Solomon's Temple), the cherub graffiti has been advanced as
evidence that the quarry dates from the time of Solomon. .
In the mid-1880s, the cave was occupied by a German religious sect which was eventually
evacuated by the German Consul in Jerusalem after many of the group fell ill from living in the
damp, unsanitary conditions. 
Minor quarrying occurred in 1907 when stone was obtained to be used in the Turkish clock tower
over the Jaffa Gate. Otherwise, the site was not frequented again until the 1920s, when it began
to be something of a tourist attraction ...