The Cardo, from the Latin word meaning ‘heart’, was a key feature of many important Roman cities, and refers to a large colonnaded street running through the city connecting the major institutions. The street is well preserved and it is easy to imagine walking down it 1500 year ago as the main road of the Roman capital Aelia Capitolina. The road was originally paved by the Emperor Harian in the 2nd century when Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Roman polis, and in the 6th century, the road was extended south to today’s Jewish Quarter by the Emperor Justinian. The Cardo is depicted in the Madaba Map, a mosaic pavement in a 6th century church in the Jordanian town of Madaba, and there is a replica of this map displayed at the Cardo today.
A section of the street has been revived with full restoration and lined with shops for tourists, as it would have been 1500 years ago. There is a painting depicting a Byzantine girl standing in the street as it would have been then, handing a pomegranate to a 21st century boy, linking the people who walk down and shop in this street through the millennia. Another part of the Cardo has been restored to look how it would have done in Roman times, so it is easy to travel back through time in your imagination.
The street is home to some fascinating archaeological excavations from both First and Second Temple periods, revealed in part as an unexpected result of the Jordanian army razing the city in 1948. It is a great place to buy memorable souvenirs of the city, especially if you’re looking for beautifully crafted Judaica and Jewish art.