In general, "Cardo," which in Latin means "heart," means the center. The Cardo Street in the Roman cities is the heart of the city - the same street where most of the city's commerce and traffic take place. The model of such a street among the Romans was permanent and they used to replicate it in many cities and military camps. It can be found mainly in the Roman cities of the Middle East, North Africa, Syria and Jordan. In Israel, too, it is located in the remains of the cities of Caesarea and Antipatris, Tel Afek, near Rosh Ha'ayin.
The Cardo in the Jewish Quarter is a wide, stone-paved street that was discovered here in the 1970's. It was excavated and then restored to an active trading street today, with shops and services, allowing to experience a little of the past in today's modern age.
The total width of the cardo is 22.5 meters and only part of it is exposed. At its center, there is a passage, some of which has an open top, and 12.5 meters wide. On both sides of the cardo there is a row of shops and above it a tiled roof, supported by a row of stone pillars 5 meters high. The roof protects the street from rain and sun. Incidentally, except for one column, all the exposed pillars were broken. Only one column was discovered intact, beneath the foundations of the Tzemach Tzedek Synagogue at the southern end of the Cardo.
The cardo is one of the rare cases in which it has revived around 2,700 years later, and turned it into an active trading environment. This did not happen in other places in Jerusalem, where such initiatives were refuted by archaeologists who said, and generally rightly, that everyday life should not be allowed to destroy ancient, historical and scientific heritage. Here, in the Cardo of the Jewish Quarter, they were able to connect contemporary and ancient history and turn them into one.
The Cardo was not normally excavated by determined archaeologists. In fact, it is an archaeological discovery that was born in the minds of three young architects who won a bid for the restoration of the Jewish Quarter, in order to restore life to it, after it became a poor slum during the Jordanian rule.
The young architects examined the map of Madaba, an ancient map discovered on the floor of a church in Jordan, in which Jerusalem appeared in some detail. They saw that the cardo appeared on the map, the main colonnade of the Old City. They pointed to a certain place and claimed that the cardo was hiding below. A senior archaeologist, with whom they consulted, laughed. However, he agreed to dig and examine the place where they claimed to be hiding the route of the ancient street. Quickly he encountered a hard layer and then again and again, in many places. There's a floor there, the experts determined. As you already understand, there was a street there. But is it the Cardo?
The excavation began with the aim of discovering the neat foundations of the columns, exposing the drainage channel into which the rainwater flowed from the roofs of the street houses, and from there exposing the ancient street itself. It turned out that the architects were right all along. Archaeologists have also agreed that this is indeed the famous cardo.
In the next stage the builders began to renew the old cardo and integrate it into a modern commercial street. From a pile of workshops and neglected houses, next to ruins of the War of Independence, they created a reconstructed commercial street, on the lower floors of which were shops and residential units on the upper floors, which were built above them.
Today, the Cardo is one of the most famous reconstructions in the world, a street that combines old, new, antique with renovated and modern shopping in a complex that has the scent of antiquity.
The map of Madaba is an example of an ancient map that is not intended for navigation in the field. This is because it was not drawn according to a geographical scale, but according to the religious-spiritual importance of the places that appear in it (more important places are highlighted and large on the map). This is also why it was found in an ancient Christian prayer place, St. George's Church. In addition, the map is the earliest historical evidence for the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.