Most of the walls around todays' Old City, as well as the gates leading through them, were built in the 16th century under Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent. The Lion's Gate, also known as St. Stephen's Gate or Sheep Gate, is decorated with bas-reliefs of lions, which is untypical for Islamic architecture. Could the Turkish Caliph decorate the gates in accordance with the ancient Jewish tradition, according to which the lion has been considered a symbol of Jerusalem since ancient times? Scarcely!
The legend connects the appearance of lions with the Caliph's decision to impose an exorbitant tribute on the Jerusalemites and a dream that he had after that. Four terrifying animals, guarding the thrones of the kings David and Solomon, allegedly attacked the Caliph threatening to devour him. Having woken up, Suleiman ordered to cancel the heavy tax which he was going to impose on the Jerusalem's residents. After this dream the Caliph decided to encircle the city with a limestone wall more than three kilometres long and twelve meters wide and to build a new gate on the site of the ancient one. To this day, one of them has decorated to this day the images of lions executed by the order of the caliph – as menacing reminders of the invisible but powerful defenders of this ancient site.