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Middle East

Sacred city


The religious heritage of Jerusalem is one that few cities can rival.


Jerusalem is a city in which religious highlights arrive in density. Crammed inside its square-kilometre-surface (0.4 square miles) are some 220 historic monuments, including a series of highly important sites. UNESCO listed it in 1981. Millions of people visit every year.

The old city was all there was of Jerusalem until the mid-19th century, when surrounding Jewish neighbourhoods started to emerge. A wall of four kilometres (nearly three miles) protects the old city. Inside is a dense labyrinth of streets and squares. Throughout an eventful and often turbulent history, these streets have been walked by everyone from beggars to merchants, great scholars, academics and slaves.

Jerusalem today features four distinct ‘quarters’ of Armenians, Christians, Jews and Muslims. They occupy each of the city’s four corners. “What happened was that people started to live around their religious sites,” says Simon Goldhill, professor at the University of Cambridge. “People kept close to their religious communities.” Continue Reading…