“Cardio” is Greek for “heart”, and in Jerusalem, the Cardo refers to the Street of Pillars set at the very heart of the city. This 22.5-meter wide ancient street used to be the major thoroughfare of Jerusalem’s Old City 1,500 years ago.
Jerusalem is the spiritual birthplace of three world religions that find their origins in Abraham: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The Holy City is one of the oldest cities in the world and you get a good sense of that once you enter Jerusalem’s priced Old City. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this part of Jerusalem alone has more than 200 archeological sites and tourist attractions. The Old City is divided into four uneven parts, each with its own unique and stunning landmarks: the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter; the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter; and St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter. Outside the walled city stands another magnificent structure from the past, the Tower of David.
Apparently, the center of the Old City lands within the Jewish Quarter and it is here where you can see the Street of Pillars, which is definitely one of the main attractions in this part of the Old City. The old pillars are open for viewing near the quarter’s main square. But that is just one part of this ancient street. Another section of the archeological remains has been restored to dramatize how the ancient stalls and shops looked like while another was converted into a shopping street for various goods and artworks. Also attracting tourists is a large painting showing how the Cardo looked like during the Byzantine period. The painting was done and installed by the nearby Creation de la Cite French school of art.
The old Cardo, which was paved in 2nd century, was a stunning colonnaded street that connected major institutions and establishments in Byzantine Jerusalem. In the 6th century, the Byzantine Emperor extended the southern end of the colonnade, which is now that part that reaches into the Muslim Quarter. The original colonnaded street used to run from the square inside the main gate, which is now referred to as Damascus Gate, and all the way across the city to the south. Nobody knows for sure today where it led to.
The 6-lane-wide ancient street was divided into three parts: a colonnaded covered walk with shaded porticoes, the central open area where commercial and religious functions were held, and another colonnaded area. The shaded porticoes protected pedestrians from the rain and scorching heat. Jerusalem gets plenty of rain in winter and dry zero-rain days in summer. They shade also gave people the chance to socialize, meet friends and engage in commerce.
The rows of columns are what most people picture ancient antiquity. The columns were put up to support a red ceramic tile roof, and the street used to be bordered by massive walls and an arcade. The Romans love building wide streets that ran through the city. They built one in every city they developed including Jerusalem. These streets usually were secondary main streets and typically called Decumanus Maximus. The main Cardo in Jerusalem is called Cardo Maximus. It is open to tourists every day of the year.