Maps of the Holy Land and Jerusalem

From ancient times the
Holy Land has been the focus of great attraction for Jews, Christians and
Muslims alike. Throughout the ages Jews
and Christians have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, envisaged scenes and
stories from the Scriptures, and dreamt of it from afar. Many of them left
behind descriptions and studies of the Holy Land accompanied by scenes and
drawings. The Eran Laor Cartographic Collection in the National Library of Israel
contains about 1,500 maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the beginning
of print until today.

Map of Jerusalem (1560/1580) by Donato Bertelli and Pirro LigorioThe National Library of Israel

Bertelli, map of Jerusalem, Venice, 16th century [156- ]

Map of Jerusalem (1570/1570) by Stefano Du PeracThe National Library of Israel

Du Perac, map of Jerusalem, Rome, c.1570

Forty years of travel in the desert (holy land map, 1695) (1695/1695) by Abraham bar Jakob the ProselyteThe National Library of Israel


Jewish maps, though few and far between, represent the centrality of the Land of Israel in the history and hopes of the Jewish people. Traditional Jewish maps reflect two distinct trends in cartographic tradition: one group of maps follows  the original maps made by the prominent Bible commentator Rashi, while another follows Christian map models adapted to Jewish notions.

The division of the Land of Israel according to its borders (holy land map,19th century) by Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (the Gaon of Vilna)The National Library of Israel


This lovely hand-drawn map was drawn in the 19th century by an artist who claims that he copied it from the famous Jewish scholar, the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797).

The map follows an ancient tradition of mapping the borders of Land of Israel, as described in Numbers 34. This tradition commenced with Rashi, the greatest Jewish Biblical commentator, who lived in France in the 11th century.

Later tradition added the allotments of the 12 tribes, and cities and settlements which are represented here as European houses with tiled roofs. Jerusalem is depicted prominently with a tower beside it bearing the inscription "The Temple".

Map of the Land of IsraelThe National Library of Israel



R. Shlomo of Helm (1717-1781) was a famous Jewish scholar and Rabbi in Poland. Although he was famous for his erudition in Jewish sources and law (Halakha), he chose extraordinarily to emphasize the importance of the study of Philosophy and Sciences alongside Jewish studies.

In the autograph manuscript of his book "Hug Ha-Aretz", recently purchased by the NLI, written in beautiful classical Hebrew language and in handsome calligraphic script, R. Shlomo drew a series of maps of the Land of Israel divided among the Tribes. Unlike the tradition following Rashi's maps, the legends in his maps prove that he was clearly inspired by the Christian maps of the Holy Land made by Adrichom and by Seutter.

Map of the Land of IsraelThe National Library of Israel

Shlomo of Helm, Map of the land of Israel, Poland, 18th century, page 56

Panorama of the Holy Land (1900/1900) by Chaim Solomon SchottlaenderThe National Library of Israel


This lithograph, printed by Schottlaender in Breslau around 1900, is the last in a long line of maps, or tables, depicting Jewish pilgrimage sites and tombs of righteous men in the Holy Land. It is special in that it chooses to present only the most significant holy sites, omitting the rest. In their stead, the author elects to show the new colonies just established by Jews thus blending traditional views with the new Zionist movement!

The most prominent settlement in the map is Jerusalem; Safed appears above, to its left surrounded by many sacred tombs. The new Zionistic settlements are identified by the author as "colonie". 

Palestine or All the Promised Land (1575/1575) by Abraham OrteliusThe National Library of Israel


Depictions of the Holy Land appeared mostly in Bibles, in travel books, and in histories and geographies. With the invention of the printing press it became worthwhile to produce large and detailed drawings which were then printed in several editions. These drawings are often called maps, although they were really often rather naïve and romantic impressions. Diachronic in nature, they often record events from the past and the future on one map. Favored scenes are the land as promised to Abraham, or Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. The readers were thus introduced to this unique site where momentous events occurred and are yet to occur in the future.


The Pilgrimage and Life of Avraham the Patriarch (1590/1590) by Abraham OrteliusThe National Library of Israel


ORTELIUS' MAP - This map was made by the
famous publisher, Abraham Ortelius active in the Low Countries during the 16th
century who, in an age of great geographical discoveries was the first to print
a modern atlas. Although a "modern" cartographer at the time,
Ortelius dedicated a special map to "The Life and Peregrination of the
Patriarch Abraham to the Promised Land".  

The biblical passage
(Genesis 12: 1-2) commanding Abraham to leave on the journey appears along the
top frame of the map: “Go from your country, your people and your
father’s household to the land I will show you", while on
the bottom appears Genesis 17:8: "The whole land of Canaan, where
you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to
you and your descendants after you."

Ortelius, bottom biblical passage

Ortelius, Cartouche and top biblical passage

Map of the Holy Land (1629/1629) by Willem Janszoon Blaeu and Jodocus HondiusThe National Library of Israel


In 1629, W.J. Blaeu printed a new world atlas containing 45 maps. One of these was a map of the Holy Land as seen by Moses from Mt. Nevo just before his death and after forty years of wandering with the Israelites in the desert.The cartouche on the bottom right is surrounded by the figures of Moses and Aaron. In this image, Moses had just descended from Mt. Sinai with the Tablets and is shown according to Jerome's mistaken translation of Exodus 34:29, with horns over his head. Next to him stands Aaron, the High Priest, in his special attire and paraphernalia.The Wanderings of the Children of Israel in the desertThe story of Moses and the Wanderings of the Children of Israel in the desert is shown here in miniature drawings: on the left the Children of Israel are seen crossing the parted Red Sea, their following route through the desert being marked by a yellow trail. On the right the revelation at Mount Sinai, as well as the Tabernacle and the various camps of the Israelites are depicted.

Blaeu, map of the Holy Land, Amsterdam, 1629, NLI, Cartouche - Moses and Aaron

Blaeu, map of the Holy Land, Amsterdam, 1629, the route of the Children of Israel in the desert

Map of the Holy Land (1725/1725) by Matthaeus SeutterThe National Library of Israel


Matthaeus Seutter's map of Palestine was part of his atlas, which was popular in Europe in the 18th century. The map, based on a prototype made a century earlier by Sanson, aims to depict the Holy Land to the Christian European audience from the First Temple until the Roman period, covering the period of the events told in the Old and New Testament. Equally important, is the scene on the top left, showing Jesus exorcising a demon, watched from above by God and the Holy Spirit, with the Crucifixion in the background. On the bottom right the route of the Exodus from Egypt is depicted separately.

Map of the Holy Land (1600/1620)The National Library of Israel


This map was drawn in the Netherlands, following Ortelius's map of the Holy Land around 1600. The anonymous artist added to Ortelius' map a series of illustrations, including Jonah being tossed to the mouth of the big fish and Israelite figures crossing the desert. At the bottom right the twelve tribes are encamped in the Sinai Desert, and on the bottom right the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem is depicted. Interestingly, the North in the compass rose is pointing to the south!

Map of Jerusalem (1670/1700) by Romeyn de HoogheThe National Library of Israel


Christians throughout the ages were drawn to Jerusalem, captivated by its glorious past: it was the city into which according to Christian tradition Jesus made his Triumphal Entry, the stage upon which the events of the Great Week took place, and the place of his Crucifixion and Resurrection and the Ascension. It was also the city of David and Solomon and the setting of a multitude of biblical events. Although many pilgrims and scholars purported to depict "modern" Jerusalem, their maps often followed much earlier maps, and their main aim was to map out the Christian sites, usually ignoring the Muslim presence in the city.

Map of Jerusalem (1780/1780) by Jean-Francois DaumontThe National Library of Israel


Jean François Daumont made this beautiful map of Jerusalem in 1780. However, it was actually copied from a map originally drawn almost 300 years beforehand, in 1486, following the pilgrimage of Bernhard of Breydenbach to Jerusalem in 1483.

Daumont marks Christian and Muslim monuments with a cross or crescent, but does not name the Muslim monuments. In fact, Daumont chooses to call the mosques on the Temple Mount by their Crusader name: "Templum Salomonis", preferring history to reality.

Map of Jerusalem (1657/1657) by Frans Hogenburg (Franciscus) and Georg BraunThe National Library of Israel


This view of Jerusalem was one of three maps of the city included in the famous city atlas compiled by Braun and Hoghenberg, in 1575. The quotation from Ezek. 5:5 at the top of the map conveys the idea of Jerusalem as the center of the earth, while the citation from Pliny the Elder on the bottom left lauds "Jerusalem, the most famous of the cities in the Orient, Metropolis of Judaea".

The city is seen here from the perspective of pilgrims standing on the Mount of Olives, looking eastwards. Although the round shape of the city is schematic, there are various realistic elements such as the citadel in the background, the bridges over the Kidron valley and the blocked doorway to the church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Map of Jerusalem (1578/1578) by Antonino de AngelisThe National Library of Israel


Dapper (1635-1689), who never travelled outside Holland, collected a lot of information about the Holy Land and many other countries. His realistic map (1677) relied on the map made by Bernardino Amico, a Franciscan monk in Jerusalem between1593-1597. Amico, in fact, copied a map made by another Franciscan monk, Antonio d'Angelis, who had served in Jerusalem a few years before; his map continued to be copied by generations of Christian map-makers.

The map does not identify the religious affiliation of the monuments with a cross or crescent, and calls the mosques on the Temple Mount – "The Pagan Church". 

Map of Jerusalem (1584/1584) by Christiaan van AdrichemThe National Library of Israel


Christian van Adrichom was a Catholic priest and
theologian. A native of Delft, he fled to Cologne  in the wake of the
religious turmoil of the Reformation. His map of Jerusalem is part of his book,
published in 1584, on the antiquities and history of the Holy Land and is based
on the Bible, Josephus Flavius, and many other sources. Purporting to depict
Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, it includes a variety of illustrations
representing sundry historical periods. Adrichom's map was one of the most
popular and influential maps of the period and was often copied.

The Via Dolorosa of Jesus, from his trial to his Crucifixion is depicted in detail in Adrichom's map.

The Antonia fortress and Pilate's palace where the Trial of Jesus takes place and Pilate declares: "Crucifige".

The Via Dolorosa – Jesus is commanded to carry the Cross, he falls, and is then assisted by Simon of Cyrene.

Via Dolorosa in the present

Map of Jerusalem (1770/1770) by L. MondhareThe National Library of Israel


This landscape drawn by L. Mondhare in 1770, portrays Ottoman Jerusalem as a city commanded by towering minarets and crescents in a surreal mixture of imagination and reality. Prominently situated towards the left of the map is the Dome of the Rock while in the center the Church of the Holy Sepulcher stands out clearly. At the front of the sketch is the Kidron River, usually a dry riverbed, appearing as a broad, rushing, European style river. The inscription at the bottom states that the City of David and Solomon is currently controlled by the Ottomans and notes the existence of a Franciscan monastery within the city.

View of contemporary Jerusalem from Mount Olives

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