Module 2 – Telling Jerusalem’s History though Maps

by Dr. Sarit Kattan Gribetz


There are many ways of mapping the history of Jerusalem, and exploring its development and role as a holy city and a sacred center from antiquity to the present.  One might examine the impact of the city’s geography and topography in its early history; the layers of temples, churches, mosques, and shrines that were built within the confines of the city and often on top of earlier sacred sites; destruction caused by military and religious conquests; imaginations of heavenly cities and temples in lieu of an earthly Jerusalem; the depiction of Jerusalem on ancient and medieval coins, handled on a daily basis as part of a commercial and economic system; the location’s natural resources, such as bedrock and water, and their transformation into theologically potent commodities; or Jerusalem as a pilgrimage center that drew people in and sent ideas and souvenirs out of it.

This assignment is designed to help you explore the history of medieval Jerusalem through depictions of the city in maps.  What might maps be able to reveal to us about how the cartographers who made them imagined Jerusalem and regarded their own relationship with and perceived proximity to the city?  What do we learn about how people related to Jerusalem – as a real and imagined city – through a close examination of medieval maps?

In the following pages, you will find a series of late antique and medieval maps, each of which depicts Jerusalem in some way.  As you carefully examine each one, please pay attention to all of the different aspects of these maps: their date and location of creation, what they include and exclude, what colors are used, what geographical regions they depict, what details they highlight, what shapes are used, how writing is incorporated, what images are represented, and other ways in which they are similar and different from one another.  What can we say about the depiction of Jerusalem in each map?  Please pay particular attention to the Oxford Outremer Map, which can be studied in great detail on the accompanying website.

Please write a one-page analysis of these maps and their depictions of Jerusalem, with a focus on what we might learn about their creators as well as the changing place of Jerusalem in medieval Europe before, during, and after the crusades.



Further Reading and Image Credits