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Jerusalem, the holy city of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has been the focus of numerous volumes of history, chronicles, biblical exegeses, and itineraries. Many of these works include maps and views of the city itself. These pictorial items increased in number continuously with the development of printing methods since the 17th century. Before the advent of print, maps of Jerusalem and other manuscripts of the city were often inscribed on vellum, or more rarely created as wall or floor mosaics. Since the first printed map of Jerusalem appeared in the late 15th century until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when maps began to be based on accurate surveys, more than 300 maps of Jerusalem were designed and printed.

Most maps of Jerusalem were not created to fill the utilitarian purpose of modern maps. They were not drawn to help travelers find their way. Some of them do not even depict the city as it existed. They served as a medium of conveying information, a viewpoint and a concept. This role of maps is not unique to the ancient maps of Jerusalem, but is characteristic of many maps, both current and past. However, the singular status of Jerusalem as a holy city, a focus of interest and of strong religious attraction, led to the creation of numerous maps depicting that city, more often through concepts rather than from a purely geographical aspect.

Maps were included in many editions of the works of Josephus, the Bible and biblical exegeses, as well as in historical chronicles which mentioned Jerusalem, usually in conjunction with the discussion of the Holy City, its temples, palaces and other sites. Christian pilgrims, inspired by the Psalm to "worship at the place where his feet have stood"(132:7), required maps for travel and left accounts of their own.
Eusebius records how Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, visited Jerusalem shortly before her death in the 4th century. Her historic pilgrimage and the churches she sponsored encouraged many to follow her example.

Indeed, intense emotional and religious ties linked European Christians to Jerusalem during the Middle Ages and later centuries. However, only a handful of Christians actually visited Jerusalem because the city was so distant and was under hostile Muslim rule. Moreover, the journey was long, expensive and dangerous. These factors encouraged the making of maps of Jerusalem as a substitute. Many impressionistic descriptions of the city were created in Christian Europe. Mostly, they were impressions of a Jerusalem that existed in the hearts and minds of European Christian mapmakers and readers, and less depictions of the terrestrial Jerusalem.

Until the early 19th century, maps of Jerusalem tended to be artistic drawings of landscapes, without measurements, scale or accurate perspective. Scenes and locations from different historical periods were depicted side by side, combining the representation of real locations with the biblical concepts associated with them. Because of their popularity, many early maps of Jerusalem have survived.

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