Roman Cardo in Jerusalem Easy to Miss–but Don’t

If you’re in Jerusalem’s Old City doing the tourist thing, try to pass through the old Roman Cardo. The hours the business area is open are Sun. – Thurs. 8:00-18:00, Fri 8:00-16:00.

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The official website of the Old City describes it as follows:

The street was 22 meters wide with tall, imposing columns lining either side. The Cardo was discovered during archaeological excavations carried out after reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.
Among the shops and galleries we can identify remains from previous periods of the city’s history, including First Temple and Hasmonean fortifications. This section of the street is covered. The pointed archways and domed structures indicate that it was built during the Crusader Period. During restoration work in the 1970s trash and refuse that had accumulated during hundreds of years of neglect was cleared out and removed from the ancient storefronts. Contemporary businesses now sell their merchandise in Crusader shops and offer tourists and visitors a variety of souvenirs and Judaica items.

Let us move along past the shops until we reach the part of the street with the row of columns on the right.

We are standing on the street’s original paving stones, which date back to the Byzantine Period. The center of the street was open to the sky, and animals as well as carriages traveled here. Pedestrians used raised sidewalks located on either side of the street, and above them was a roof supported by columns to protect them from the sun and rain. Stores, some of which were carved into the bedrock, faced out onto the street and their remains can be seen farther along the street. Imagine the gentle clip-clop of the horses’ hooves, the low braying of the mules, the noisy rattling of the carriage wheels and the shouts of the wagoneers; merchandise in every color of the rainbow, the songs and the cries of the vendors; the aromas wafting from the bakeries, the fragrance of the spices and incense…
We move up to the covered alley where we find a mosaic map on the wall. This is a reproduction of a section of the Madaba Map, which was part of a mosaic floor discovered in the 19th century at the Church of St. George in the city of Madaba, (Medba) Jordan. The mosaic depicts all of the Holy Land, and gives us a rare glimpse of Byzantine Jerusalem during the 6th century. From the map we can clearly see the Cardo with its two rows of columns, and the many gates into the city that had been built during that period.

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