The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is the oldest of the current gates in Jerusalem's Old City Walls. According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate, and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1-3) and a new gate replaces the present one; that is why Jews used to pray for mercy at the former gate at this location. Hence the name Sha'ar Harachamim (שער הרחמים), the Gate of Mercy. In Christian apocryphal texts, the gate was the scene of a meeting between the parents of Mary, so that Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate became a standard subject in cycles depicting the Life of the Virgin. In Arabic, it is known as the Gate of Eternal Life. In ancient times, the gate was known as the Beautiful Gate.
Remains of a much older gate dating to the times of the Second Jewish Temple were found. The present one was probably built in the 520s CE, as part of Justinian I's building program in Jerusalem, on top of the ruins of the earlier gate in the wall. An alternate theory holds that it was built in the later part of the 7th century by Byzantine artisans employed by the Umayyad khalifs.
The gate is located in the middle of the eastern side of the Temple Mount. The portal in this position was believed to have been used for ritual purposes in biblical times.
In Jewish tradition, this is the gate through which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I sealed off the Golden Gate in 1541 to prevent the Messiah's entrance. The Muslims also built a cemetery in front of the gate, in the belief that the precursor to the Messiah, Elijah, would not be able to pass through, since he is a Kohen. This belief is erroneous because a Kohen is permitted to enter a cemetery in which primarily non-Jews are buried.
The Golden Gate is one of the few sealed gates in Jerusalem's Old City Walls, along with the Huldah Gates, and a small Biblical and Crusader-era postern located several stories above ground on the southern side of the eastern wall.
Ezekiel 44:1 ¶ Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. 2 Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. 3 It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.