Mary is the "Turris Davidica," the
Tower of David
by Cardinal Newman
TOWER in its simplest idea is a fabric for defense against enemies. David, King of Israel, built for
this purpose a notable tower; and as he is a figure or type of our Lord, so is his tower a figure
denoting our Lord's Virgin Mother.
She is called the Tower of David because she had so signally
fulfilled the office of defending her Divine Son from the assaults of His foes. It is customary with
those who are not Catholics to fancy that the honors we pay to her interfere with the supreme worship
which we pay to Him; that in Catholic teaching she eclipses Him. But this is the very reverse of the
For if Mary's glory is so very great, how cannot His be
greater still who is the Lord and God of Mary? He is infinitely above His Mother; and all that grace
which filled her is but the overflowings and superfluities of His incomprehensible Sanctity. And
history teaches us the same lesson. Look at the Protestant countries which threw off all
devotion to her three centuries ago, under the notion that to put her from their thoughts would be
exalting the praises of her Son. Has that consequence really followed from their profane conduct
towards her? Just the reverse—the countries, Germany, Switzerland, England, which so acted, have in
great measure ceased to worship Him, and have given up their belief in His Divinity while the Catholic
Church, wherever she is to be found, adores Christ as true God and true Man, as firmly as ever she
did; and strange indeed would it be, if it ever happened otherwise. Thus Mary is the "Tower of
Our Lady, Tower of David
"The Ave Maria"
A Magazine Devoted to the Honor of the Blessed Virgin
+ Henceforth All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed +
VOL. XLVII. NOTRE DAME, INDIANA JULY 23, 1898 NO. 4
[Published every Saturday. Copyright: Rev. D.E. Hudson, C.S.C.]
Among the millions of her clients who daily invoke the Blessed Virgin under the multiplied titles of
Loreto's Litany, not all perhaps have any more than a vague idea of the fitness and aptitude of these
titles to the Holy Mother of God. Some, it may be, take it for granted that in the wealth of
eulogistic epithets applied to her, only comparatively few have any special congruity or suggest more
than the faintest resemblance between the attributes of Our Lady and the characteristics of the
secondary object to which she is compared. Yet a studious examination of each separate epithet will
make it manifest that none have been applied in an arbitrary or haphazard fashion; that, on the
contrary, all embody a special symbolism which is as interesting to the intellect as it is consolatory
to the heart of a true servant of Mary.
Beyond the general notion that, as a tower implies strength and incidental protection, she whom we
invoke as Tower of David is appealed to that her clients may be protected from the attacks of the
world, the flesh, and the devil, it is quite possible that the great mass of Catholics are cognizant
of no specific reason why this title may claim especial appropriateness. A brief account of the
historic structure whose name is thus introduced into the Litany may therefore possess interest for
many of our readers.
Between the hill of Acra and Mt. Moriah, the most vulnerable
point of the olden city of Jerusalem, King David caused a very strong tower to be built, with redoubts
and entrenchments capable of resisting the most violent attacks of an enemy. All around it were
suspended bucklers and shields, the defensive armor of the most valiant warriors. It is not strange
that this tower should be looked upon as a figure of Mary, who is the fortress, rampart, and redoubt
of the Church, and a fortress built by the true David--the Christ.
Mary is the Tower of David, because in her the divine Warrior born at Bethlehem took the arms
necessary for the combat which He desired to sustain; that is to say, His body and blood. Ancient
kings were accustomed to hang from certain lofty towers bucklers, quivers, bolts and diverse other
instruments of war, for the purpose of inspiring their foes with terror. God has followed this custom
with respect to the Blessed Virgin. He has adorned her with the examples of the most heroic virtues,
under which aspect she will be "terrible as an army set in array";* her very appearance will
disperse the besiegers.
St. Thomas says, in connection with this subject: "The thousand bucklers are the thousand
remedies against every species of danger from which Mary
can preserve us." Mary is a veritable armory. In her are to be found the faith of the patriarchs,
the hope of the prophets, the fervor of the apostles, the fortitude of the martyrs, the wisdom of the
doctors, the justice of the confessors, the chastity of the virgins, the combined virtues of all the
It is significant that, from the historic tower erected by David, there were suspended no swords,
lances, arrows, or other offensive arms, but merely shields or bucklers. Truly typical of Our Lady,
who knows no offensive arms, who attacks and wounds none; but who is thus fittingly supplied with
defensive armor alone. For a similar reason, Mary is compared to the plane-tree. "As a plane-tree
by the water in the streets was I exalted."** The leaves of this species of tree are shaped like
the ancient shield; the tree is thus surrounded by as many miniature bucklers as it has leaves. He
who, in the shade of the Heart of Mary, seeks a refuge from adversity, is safe from every danger, from
every stroke and dart and arrow. A thousand bucklers protect him.
Entering Jerusalem by the Jaffa gate, the tourist observes to his right the citadel El-Kal'ah, the
ancient castle of the Pisans in the Middle Ages. Four towers meet his gaze, that forming the western
portion of the citadel being our Tower of David. Its lower part is composed of great, time-worn
stones, arranged in bossage work, and measuring from three to twelve feet in length by four and a half
feet in width. This lower part is thought to be of Jebusite construction.*** There is no break or
opening in its whole surface. It rises some forty feet from the base of the fosse, or moat; is more
than sixty-five feet long, and some fifty-two or fifty-three in width.
In the upper portion of the tower is a window of what is known as David's Oratory. This word awakens
reflections both sorrowful and consoling. On the terrace surmounting the tower which was his royal
residence, David, while walking about one day, allowed his glance to rest upon a spectacle that
seduced his heart; and to this day the guides point out to the interested traveler the site of the
house of Urias. That valiant soldier was given up to certain death in order that his royal master's
passion might have free scope.
To the King thus miserably fallen, however, the Lord sent His prophet Nathan; and these walls of the
tower were the first to hear that touching allegory of the poor man's lamb, which so many centuries
have delighted to repeat, and over which so many stricken sinners have shed tears of repentance:*
"There were two men in one city,--the one rich and the other poor.
"The rich man had exceeding many sheep and oxen.
"But the poor man had nothing at all but one little ewe-lamb, which he had bought and nourished
up; and which had grown up in his house together with his children, eating of his bread, and drinking
of his cup, and sleeping in his bosom: and it was unto him as a daughter.
"And when a certain stranger was come to the rich man, he spared to take of his own sheep and
oxen, to make a feast for that stranger who was come to him; but took the poor man's ewe and dressed
it for the man that was come to him.
"And David's anger being exceedingly kindled against that man, he said to Nathan: As the Lord
liveth, the man that hath done this is a child of death. "He shall restore the ewe fourfold;
because he did this thing and had no pity.
"And Nathan said to David: Thou art the man."
This memory of a grievous fault is not incongruous to this Tower sung by the Church in her Litany.
Mary sits enthroned on the theater of one of the most deplorable falls recorded in history; giving us
to understand that if her heart is like a tower wherein the Christian may in the hour of combat find
defense and shelter, it is also a compassionate refuge for him whose weakness has caused him to fall.
"Tower of David! Refuge of Sinners! pray for us!"
Antiochus Epiphanes forever sullied these monuments by his ignoble cruelties. To punish mothers who
were faithful to the divine law, he had them precipitated from the height of these walls, with their
children hanging about their necks. Simon Machabeus in his day purified the citadel, and entered
within the walls to the sound of harp and cymbals.
Never did any of the conquerors whom successful war led as far as Jerusalem attempt to take the city
by assault on the side of the Tower of David. Strategy recognized the futility of all efforts against
such means of resistance. When Titus became master of the deicide city, it was the upper town--the
quarter in which was situated the tower--that fell last into his hands twenty days after the burning
of the temple. "About eleven hundred years after its foundation," writes Mgr. Mislin,
"Jerusalem was to perish on the summit of this same rock of Sion [David Tower], upon the tomb of
Herod the Great, desirous of the celebrity accruing to the builder of sumptuous edifices, dowered
Jerusalem with several towers which were built near that of David. The first bore the name of Phasaël,
in memory of his father, who died in an expedition against the Parthians; the second he called
Marianine, after a woman whom he loved frantically, and whom through jealousy he put to death; while
the third, in honor of one of his friends, was styled Hippicos.
It is true that, having become master of Jerusalem, Titus, according to the vigorous expression of
that day, ran the ploughshare through its ruins, but he suffered the towers to remain standing. The
vanquisher desired to make of them a trophy to future generations of the valor of the Romans, capable
of capturing cities thus strongly fortified. At the same time they would serve for the defense of his
conquest. In 1129 El-Moadham, prince of Damas, demolished all the towers save that of David alone. In
the sixteenth century Selim and Soliman raised the three Herodian towers on their original
foundations, and probably with the same materials.
The servant of Mary feels a peculiar gratification in greeting her by this apposite title when, a
fascinated traveler in the Holy Land, he views the Tower of David standing in the midst of ruins--an
impregnable fortress which neither the hand of man nor the power of time itself has been competent to
Bossage 1. (Arch) A stone in a building, left rough and projecting, to be afterward carved into shape.
2. (Arch) Rustic work, consisting of stones which seem to advance beyond the level of the building, by
reason of indentures or channels left in the joinings.