The splendor and sheer size of the site known as the “Tombs of the Kings” was what led people to mistakenly believe that the site was the burial place of the Kings of Judea. The location, a few hundred meters north of the Old City, also seemed to point in this direction.
However, these days the site is believed to be the tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene in Mesopotamia, who converted to Judaism around 30 CE and moved to Jerusalem with her children. Jewish sources laud her for her exemplary piousness and generous spirit.
The tombs lie behind a 28-meter facade, which according to 1st century CE historian Josephus, was once crowned by three pyramids. The tombs are arranged around a central chamber, which is accessible through the outer courtyard. The antechamber then descends into the eight burial chambers.
The tombs are now empty, but once contained several sarcophagi, which were excavated by French archaeologists and transferred to the Louvre in Paris. One of the sarcophagi has an Aramaic and Hebrew inscription identifying its contents as the remains of Queen Sara (Tzara Malchata). This is believed to be a reference to Helena, who changed her name to Sara when she converted to Judaism.
The magnificent site is located on Salah ah Din Street, near the St. George Monastery and the American Colony Hotel in eastern Jerusalem.