In 1099 the Christian crusaders besieged the walled city of Jerusalem and took it. Here is a map of the Old City of Jerusalem today:

enter image description here

It clearly shows the walls (I don't know when they were built) around the Old City. I measured this on Google Maps, and it's roughly an area of 1km by 1km (1km squared). I'm very confused about this topic, because I've read through much of the Wikipedia articles on the Crusades and history of Jerusalem. From the history of Jerusalem article it says (remembering that Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin in 1187:

In 1219 the walls of the city were razed by order of al-Mu'azzam, the Ayyubid sultan of Damascus. This rendered Jerusalem defenseless and dealt a heavy blow to the city's status. The Ayyubids destroyed the walls in expectation of ceding the city to the Crusaders as part of a peace treaty. In 1229, by treaty with Egypt's ruler al-Kamil, Jerusalem came into the hands of Frederick II of Germany. In 1239, after a ten-year truce expired, he began to rebuild the walls; these were again demolished by an-Nasir Da'ud, the emir of Kerak, in the same year.

In 1243 Jerusalem came again into the power of the Christians, and the walls were repaired.
History of Jerusalem

So the walls are destroyed and repaired multiple times. Finally I see this part:

In 1517, Jerusalem was taken over by the Ottoman Empire and enjoyed a period of renewal and peace under Suleiman the Magnificent, including the construction of the walls of what is now known as the Old City of Jerusalem (although some foundations were remains of genuine antique walls).
History of Jerusalem - Early Ottoman period

I'm just trying to understand whether the walled city of Jerusalem from roughly the First Crusade is the same or roughly the same as what we now call the Old City.

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    This kind of question always reminds me of what a tour guide on the Via Dolorosa told the group in response to someone's question about retracing Jesus's steps): Jerusalem is one of the most often razed cities in the world, and so much rubble and rebuilding has accumulated that the stones we were walking on were about 20 feet above the ones Jesus would have walked on (though this varies throughout the city; in some places you can see Roman-level streets). Not much resembles what it did then. Fascinating that the overall shape has been stable for even half a millennium! Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 4:51

2 Answers 2


Yes. Quite closely resembling:

See that structure in the South-East? The temple mount? That's were the Knights Templar took their name from. This is almost a fixed point in time.

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Plan of twelfth-century Jerusalem
Adrian J.Boas: "Crusader Archaeology. The Material Culture of the Latin East", Routledge: London, New York, 1999, p13. Although at the time, maps were painted with different emphasis (click to enlarge:

enter image description here enter image description here Madaba Map, 6th century The oldest map we seem to have, for comparison.

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A plan of Jerusalem, based on the Book of Ezekiel, prepared by Daniel Stoopendaal and published in the Dutch Statenbijbel (State Bible) in late-17th century, with a view and plan of the Temple of Solomon, Ezekiel’s Temple, and 10 more Biblical vignettes.

Ancient plan of Jerusalem featuring the Temple of Solomon and Bible Illustrations, D. Stoopendaal (Source Battlemaps.us)

As your special interest seems to indicate, this might be useful as well:

enter image description here

David Nicolle & Christa Hook: "The First Crusade 1096–99. Conquest of the Holy Land", Campaign 132, Osprey, 2003, p 74–75.

A great overview of old maps for this city is of course: קרטוגרפיה של ירושלים

If this 'stability' in general outlines sounds much surprising, it is really not. The physical geography of the place sets certain limits on city building for a settlement that should have been defended in former times. Since the economic development of Jerusalem was very dependent on being a religious centre, but not much else, it didn't grow like other cities did.

The physical landscape and surroundings:

enter image description here (Political Geography of Jerusalem)

enter image description here enter image description here (Src: Alamy)

But if we go really far back, there might be another rather fixed point, apart from the temple mound, as part of the wall:

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Boundaries of Jerusalem in the First Temple period: maximalist school (A) and minimalist school (B)
Amnon Ben-Tor: Archaeology of Ancient Israel", Yale University Press: 1992, 365

Compared to another early maps and two models in 3D on Early Maps and Models of Jerusalem:

Sir Charles Wilson 1865: enter image description here S. IIIes 1873: http://templemount.org/map16-156.jpg
A three dimensional map of Jerusalem was made in the year 1873 by an Hungarian priest who lived in Jerusalem for twelve years. This three dimensional map was displayed in an exhibition in Vienna in the year 1873 and later in several countries in Europe. The size of this map is four by four and a half meters, and its scale is 1:500. It represents the Old City of Jerusalem and its surroundings.

enter image description here:
C. Schick, End Of Nineteenth Century –– Conard Schich, a famous Architect who lived in Jerusalem at the end of the nineteenth century, created a three dimensional model of Jerusalem as he envisaged it to be during the period of the Second Temple. The size of this model is 99 by 85 cm, and its scale 1:2500.

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    Wow, so even though the article says that what we call the Old City of Jerusalem is basically delineated by the walls constructed by the Ottomans in the 16th century, they're approximately in the same position as they were about 5 centuries earlier. That's amazing, that you can go to Jerusalem today and see the walls as they roughly were that long ago.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 17:38
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    @Zebrafish Add actually a couple centuries to that as well. The Second Temple was quite a fixed position on the map and the physical geography of the whole city, to make a defendable place, more or less add a path dependency from a strategic viewpoint as well. That place is old. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 17:41
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    @Zebrafish Well, for MA & that region? Compare your mental image of hoardes of crusaders walking through streams of blood up to their ankles (or up to horse mouth level according to some accounts). Now compare that to ~3000 people actually killed during the first conquest. Several cities were quite much larger than Jerusalem, this city being quite spiritually important (for reasons) but since ancient times not much good for anything else. Economically, it was always dependent on the surroundings and other, larger, often much larger cities. Without religion(s), there's nothing to see there. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:03
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    Fun fact. In the summer of 2012 I visited what today's maps call Mount Zion, which oddly enough is now used of a little part of the hill just outside the Old City (near David's Tomb). Much scrub, spiny plants, patches of actively burning grass. A basketball court. A dog chewing on a Coke bottle. And a great view of the Kidron Valley. Wikipedia tells me the name came to designate different places over time, and that this part of the hill was inside the First Temple walls. I guess not the Second Temple ones. Goes to show the insulating effect of a good wall. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 4:47

An addition to other already excellent answers:

The Western "Wailing Wall" is constructed at the very top from smaller stones placed initially by the Roman X legion. However, the large stones below that - typically about 12 tons each - which make up most of "The Wailing Wall" are the remnants of the wall built by Herod the Great's engineers. Touch the wall and you touch true antiquity.

And that boundary of the old city is 'not going anywhere fast'. The wall we see now is about 40% of the original, with the other 60% below ground level, going all the way down to bedrock. Herod meant it to last. It has.

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