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The Cardo in Jerusalem

September 19, 2019

Byzantine Cardo

The Cardo is the name given to the main street in Roman and Byzantine cities, which customarily runs through the city from the north to south.

The Cardo would typically be an expansive road of at least 22 meters wide, and lined on both sides with covered walkways supported by columns for pedestrians and filled with workshops and stores, shops and stalls on both sides of the street.

The central lane served as a passageway for carriages and animals.

The Cardo in Jerusalem

The Cardo in Jerusalem runs from the Damascus Gate in the north of the city to the Zion Gate in the south of the city.

This amazing road was discovered and excavated after the 6 Days War, when the destruction that had been wrought in the Jewish Quarter during the Jordanian rule of the city was turned into an opportunity to excavate.

Among other discoveries, one of the most magnificent findings was the Cardo. The Cardo was constructed in the city of Jerusalem after the destruction of Temple by the Romans.

The Romans then named the city Ilia Capitolina and at the entrance to what today is known as the Damascus Gate, was a statue of the Emperor Adrianos set on an enormous pillar.

Reminiscent of this artifact remains in the Arabic name of the Damascus Gate which is known as “Bab-el-Amud” (the Gate of the Pillar).

The Old City of Jerusalem

In the Old City of today there is an uncovered reconstructed portion of the Cardo, complete with the pillars and the paving stones that is open to the public. This leads on to another reconstructed portion, which depicts the Cardo of old – it has an awning that is supported on one side by the pillars and on the other side by the stores.

In this portion there is a representation of the Madaba Map, renowned as being the oldest surviving map of Jerusalem and which has the Cardo clearly marked on it. This portion leads on to a mural illustrating the Cardo in Roman and Byzantine times.

The third portion, the bazaar built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, is a reconstruction of the covered ancient buildings and their original function, housing modern day stores that sell modern merchandise, while retaining a historical fell.

The final portion is a modern building, with glass covered openings through which all the excavated layers (around 30) of Jerusalem can be seen. These portions are closed to the public outside of shopping hours.

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