Literally meaning ‘the Heart’ in Latin, the Cardo Maximus in Jerusalem served as the main road of
Jerusalem for almost 500 years - since the Roman period in the 2nd century AD and up to the Muslim
rule of Jerusalem in the 7th century.
After the failed Jewish revolt of Bar-Kochva in 136 AD, the Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem
and named it ‘Aelia Capetalina’. Like most Roman cities, at its center he placed a pillared boulevard
which crossed the city from north to south.
The Cardo Maximus was first uncovered in 1975 by a team of archeologists lead by Nahman Avigad.
Most of the excavations reveal the Cardo Maximus of the Justinian period of the 6th century AD.
However a road from the First Temple period dating back to the 8th BC was also uncovered, some 6
The Madaba Map
In 1884 a mosaic map depicting the Holy Land was discovered in Madaba Jordan. This ancient map
portrays Jerusalem as it looked during the Byzantine period, around the 6th century AD. At the center
of the Madaba Map, the Cardo Maximus and its pillars can clearly be seen, spanning from north - where
Damascus Gate stands today, to south - where Zion Gate is located.
Also clearly marked, is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is located in the middle of the Cardo
Maximus, on the mid-bottom side of the Madaba map of the Cardo.
Several churches existed alongside the Cardo Maximus during the Byzantine period. On the southern
side once stood the ‘Nea Church’ built by Emperor Justinus. Nearby, and also clearly marked in the
Madaba Map, stood the ‘Holy Zion Church’ which exists to this day and marks the Cenacle – the site of
the Last Supper of Jesus on the night of his capture.
The Cardo Maximus as the Jerusalem Market
As Jerusalem gained importance in Christianity, the Cardo Maximus underwent vast expansions which
were commissioned by Emperor Justinus during the Byzantine rule in the 6th century AD.
The beautiful pillars which can still be seen, adorned the Cardo Maximus on both its sides and held a
wooden roof which protected the vendors, shoppers and pilgrims from the sun and rain.
With the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, the Cardo Maximus became inactive and
many of its stones and materials were used to build new shops and monuments in Jerusalem. During
the Crusader period, a few smaller markets were built upon the remains of the Cardo Maximus. Today,
the Cardo serves as a site which allows visitors to physically see the history of Jerusalem through the
many layers which exist beneath and above the Cardo Maximus.