One of Jerusalem’s most conspicuous Roman-Byzantine sites is the Cardo, also known as the Street of the Pillars. The word ‘cardo’ comes from the Greek word for ‘heart; this was one of the central roads of the Old City.
The wide street was bordered on the west by massive walls and on the east by an arcade. The row of columns which we see at one end of the Cardo carried the weight of the beams of the roofing. This roof made it a cool shady shopping street and even today it protects shoppers from the sun and rain.
Built by the Romans 1800 years ago, this wide street goes from one side of the Old City to the other. This was the main street in Roman and zantine times. Only a short part has been excavated. The rest is buried under the buildings of the city.
The Cardo is a remnant of Aelia Capitolina, the Roman city built over the ruins of Jerusalem following the Jewish rebellions of 70 and 135 CE. This had a grid system built on two broad thoroughfares intersecting at right angles. The north-south axis was the Cardo Maximus. The east-west axis was the Decumanus.
The original Cardo in Jerusalem ran along the northern sector of the Roman City. It began from a square inside the city’s main gate – today the Damascus gate – and crossed through the entire city to the south. In the middle of the square, was a high pillar; when the Moslems conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century the gate was renamed “Bab elAmud” (The Pillar Gate).
The gate, the square with the pillar, and the Cardo are depicted in detail on the colored mosaic map of Jerusalem, found in 1884 in a Byzantine church in Trans-Jordanian Medabah.
Location – The Cardo is situated in the heart of the Old City.