V. Jerusalem: The Pilgrim City

Walk about Zion, and go round about it . . . [Psalms 48:13]

In a sense, Abraham’s journey to the Promised Land was the first religious pilgrimage. Among the places he visited was Salem, the future site of Jerusalem. With the bringing of the Holy Ark to Jerusalem by King David and the erection there of the Temple of the Lord by King Solomon, Jerusalem became the focus of Jewish pilgrims seeking to comply with the Biblical injunction: “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose” [Deuteronomy 16:16]. Through the centuries, Jews dispersed throughout the world have engaged in pilgrimages to their Holy City. Christian pilgrimage received a considerable stimulus in the fourth century AD when Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, identified the traditional sites associated with the life and death of Jesus. The sites themselves and the magnificent churches and shrines erected over them have attracted Christian pilgrims in large numbers since that time, as have the holy sites from the Old Testament. One of the Five Pillars of the Islamic faith is the hajj, an obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. Nevertheless, Jerusalem is known in Arabic as el-Quds (“the holy one”), and the city is home to some of the most important Islamic shrines. Foremost among them is the Dome of the Rock, the magnificent mosque sheltering the rock from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. The Temple Mount upon which it stands, along with the great Mosque of el-Aqsa, is reverently called el-Haram esh-Sharif, “The Noble Sanctuary.” Early pilgrimages from Europe to Jerusalem were long and difficult journeys. The flow of pilgrims was influenced by many circumstances including travel facilities, wars, epidemics, and political, religious, and economic conditions. Accounts of these journeys are rich sources of information regarding historical events, geography, fauna and flora, and various cultures, religious practices, customs, and languages. Pilgrims’ itineraries and maps were sometimes distorted by inaccurate observation, hearsay, deliberate exaggeration or fabrication, or religious preconceptions. They nevertheless provide valuable insights into the history and topography of Jerusalem and surrounding regions. Because of Muslim and Jewish prohibitions against “graven images,” the majority of maps were by Christian pilgrims.


De Bruyn was one of the most accomplished artists to visit the Holy Land before the nineteenth century. He came as a traveling artist rather than a pilgrim and his depictions are historically valuable because of their accuracy. This view was sketched during the period of Ottoman rule when foreigners were regarded with suspicion and the making of "graven images" was prohibited. De Bruyn avoided detection by pretending to be picnicking with two Franciscan Fathers who stood guard while he made his drawings.


Dutch, 1652-1726
From: Reizen van . . . door Klein Asia . . . en Palestina
Delft, 1698
Facsimile engraving, 28.2 x 125.3 cm
Kyram Collection

IERUSALEM Comme elle est a présent

Although it is from the same vantage point and was published at about the same time as de Bruyn's view (object 18), this engraving presents a significantly different image of Jerusalem. Whereas de Bruyn's is a first-hand eyewitness drawing, Aveline's is an imaginary image based on an earlier imaginary rendering, itself derived from a fifteenth-century pilgrim's sketch. Points of interest are numbered and identified in accordance with Christian tradition. Illustrations such as this, though outdated and inaccurate, conformed with descriptions of the city's beauty and fulfilled the needs of armchair pilgrims.


French, 1654-1722
IERUSALEM Comme elle est a présent
Paris, ca. 1700
Engraving, hand colored, 34.1 x 51.7 cm
Kyram Collection

JERUSALEM du cote du Nord

Some of the most celebrated on-site drawings of the Holy Land were made by the Scottish artist David Roberts in 1838 and 1839. His view of Jerusalem from the north provides a majestic vista of the city with its domes and minarets, and the surrounding hills and valleys.


Scottish, 1796-1864
JERUSALEM du cote du Nord
From: The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia
F. Stroobant, Brussels, ca. 1845
Lithograph, 27.0 x 39.0 cm
Kyram Collection