What to see in Israel | Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem


The Cardo Maximus

The Cardo Maximus or simply the Cardo was Jerusalem’s main street during the Roman and Byzantine times. It was the north-south thoroughfare running from the Damascus Gate through the middle of the city to the Zion Gate. It was the commercial avenue of Jerusalem for almost 500 years.

Cardo Maximus
Photo Credit: Carole Raddato Wikimedia Commons

In the 2nd century, the Roman Emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a Roman polis called Aelia Capitolina and added the Cardo in the north of the city. In the 6th century, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I extended the Cardo further south to the area of today’s Jewish Quarter, thus linking the two main churches of Byzantine Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Nea Church. In the 12th century, the Crusaders built a bazaar along part of the road.

Jewish Quarter
Jewish Quarter

Excavations in the Jewish Quarter have revealed a portion of the Cardo exactly as depicted in the famous 6th century Madaba Map, the oldest surviving detailed cartographic depiction of Jerusalem. The Byzantine map portrays the Jerusalem’s Cardo as a colonnaded Roman-style road. The Cardo was an exceptionally wide boulevard with a central lane, open to the sky, for the passage of carriages and animals. The original roadway was flanked on both sides with colonnaded, covered walkways that fronted on market stalls.

The Cardo Maximus

Madaba Map
Madaba Map

The exposed southern section of the road, 4m below the present-day street level, reveals the Byzantine Cardo level. Archaeologists have uncovered beautiful limestone columns, intricately carved Corinthian-styled capitals and large flagstones that paved the street. Part of the Cardo has been restored to show how the stalls and shops would have been in the ancient times. The shopping section of the Cardo is beneath a beautifully vaulted ceiling and modern stores are housed in the ancient Crusader shops that line the Cardo. Today, visitors can stroll through the Cardo just like the residents of Jerusalem used to in the 6th century.

The Cardo Maximus

The Cardo Maximus

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