The Christian Quarter (Arabic: حارة النصارى, romanizedḤārat al-Naṣārā; Hebrew: הרובע הנוצרי, romanizedHa-Rova ha-Notsri) is one of the four quarters of the walled Old City of Jerusalem, the other three being the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. The Christian Quarter is situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate - Western Wall route in the south, bordering on the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders on the Muslim Quarter.

Christian Quarter: Arched entrance to the Muristan, northern access to Suq Aftimos
Map of the Christian Quarter

The Christian quarter contains about 40 Christian holy places and one of the most important communities of Christianity in Israel and holy places for Christians in the world. First among them is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity's holiest place. Most of the residents of the Christian quarter remain Christians however their numbers have dwindled.

Description and boundaries


The Christian Quarter was built around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the heart of the quarter, and Christian churches and institutions are spread across much of the quarter. Besides the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there are the patriarchal seats of many Christian denominations, including the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which owns large tracts of the quarter, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Coptic Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Ethiopian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, while the Franciscan Monastery of St Saviour (often called by its Italian name, San Salvatore) is the seat of the Custody of the Holy Land.[1]

The west–east David Street and north–south Christian Quarter Road, or simply Christian Road, are the principal market streets. Several hotels, including the Casa Nova Hotel and the Greek Catholic hotel, were built by the churches as places for religious visitors and pilgrims to stay. The quarter also contains museums, including one about the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In the southwestern part of the quarter there is a pool called Hezekiah's Pool or Patriarch's Pool that was traditionally used to store water for the area.

The area originated as "Haret en-Nasara" (Nasara is cognate with "Nazarenes") in the middle of the area was later to become the "Christian Quarter".[2] The convention of the boundaries of the Christian Quarter have originated in its current form in the 1841 British Royal Engineers map of Jerusalem,[3] or at least Reverend George Williams' subsequent labelling of it.[4] The city had previously been divided into many more harat (Arabic: حارَة, romanizedHārat: "quarters", "neighborhoods", "districts" or "areas", see wikt:حارة).[5]

The table below shows the evolution of the area which was to become known as the Christian Quarter, from 1495 up until the modern system:[6]

Local divisions Western divisions
Date 1495 1500s 1800s 1900 1840s onwards
Source Mujir al-Din Ottoman Census Traditional system Ottoman Census Modern maps
Quarters Zara'na Dara'na Haddadin Nasara Christian Quarter North
Khan ez-Zeyt East
Nasara ("Christian") Nasara Middle and south
Jawalda Jawalda West



4th century

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter: Jerusalem is generally considered the cradle of Christianity.[7]

During the 4th century, Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, journeyed to the Holy Land, aiming to engage in acts of charity and establish churches, particularly in locations associated with significant events in the life of Jesus Christ. During this period, a prominent narrative emerged about Helena's discovery of the cross. This legend, widely recognized in Late Antiquity, is detailed in Jacopo de Varazze's 13th-century Legenda Aurea, which not only recounts the myth surrounding the cross but also commends Helena as an exemplary Christian within the Catholic Church.[8]

According to the legend, while en route to Jerusalem, Helena encountered three crosses, one of which was believed to be the cross of Christ, accompanied by the purported nails. The narrative describes three ailing individuals approaching the crosses, with the third person experiencing a miraculous healing upon touching the cross of Christ. The designated site of this discovery is said to be where the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher was subsequently erected. Helena is also credited with the establishment of the Church of the Nativity. The cross of Christ and other relics linked to this discovery became subjects of subsequent controversies within the church.[8]

While there, she identified a site in Jerusalem as Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and the cave where Jesus was laid to rest. As a bold statement for Christianity in this part of the city, she oversaw the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Over the centuries, additional religious institutions and churches were erected nearby, forming a community of Christians.[8]

A mass of people in the Christian Quarter during the funeral of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Kamil al-Husayni, 1921
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (1885). Other than some restoration work, it appears essentially the same today.

Late 19th century


In the 19th century, European countries sought to expand their influence in Jerusalem and began constructing several structures in the Christian Quarter. The Ottoman authorities attempted to halt European influence and established rules for buying land in the area, but personal interventions from the heads of those countries, including Wilhelm II of Germany and Franz Joseph of Austria, led to construction of some buildings for those countries' religious and secular authorities.

At the end of the 19th century, there was no further free land for development in the Christian Quarter. In the same period, the Suez Canal had opened and many Christians travelled to the Holy Land. This led to intensified competition between the European powers for influence in Jerusalem. France built hospitals, a monastery, and hostels for visitors outside the Old City adjacent to the Christian Quarter - an area which became known as the French area. The Russians located themselves in the nearby Russian Compound.

There was a natural desire for easy travel between the Christian Quarter and the new development, but at the time the Old City walls formed a barrier and travellers were forced to take an indirect path through either Jaffa Gate or Nablus Gate. In 1889, the Ottomans accepted the request of the European countries and breached a new gate in the Old City walls, in the area of the new development. The gate was called the New Gate.











Many of the streets function as typical oriental bazaars or suqs, with the David Street and Christian Quarter Road most prominent among them.

  • Suq Aftimos (19th century) covers much of the Muristan quarter

Relation to Armenian Quarter


Though formally separate from the main bulk of the Christian Quarter, which houses mostly Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic sites, the Armenians consider their adjacent Armenian Quarter to be part of the Christian Quarter. The three Christian patriarchates of Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem – as well as the government of Armenia, have all publicly expressed their opposition to any political division of the two quarters. The central reasons for the existence of a separate Armenian Quarter is the distinct language and culture of the Armenians, who, unlike the majority of Christians in Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, are neither Arab nor Palestinian.[a]




  1. ^ "Apart from their miaphysite views there is no reason why the Armenian community should not live happily with the other groups in the Christian Quarter. Yet, David Street is a dividing line of more than just theological significance, for the Armenians with their separate language and culture from the Arabs also have an almost exclusively commercial economic basis. Apart from the comparatively close relations between the Syrian Orthodox Community and the Armenians for theological reasons, the Armenians have preferred to separate themselves from Arabs of all faiths."[9]
    "The difference, as I see it, is that by and large most of the Christian communities here are Palestinian ethnically, whereas the Armenians have their own ethnic identity as Armenians, and that is where in some sense they stand out or differ."[10]


  1. ^ Wager (1988).
  2. ^ Arnon, Adar (1992). "The Quarters of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Period". Middle Eastern Studies. 28 (1). Taylor & Francis, Ltd.: 12. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 4283477. Retrieved 2023-05-31. The continuous Moslem area of the city occupied its entire east half penetrating its west half at the north, near Damascus Gate. Excluding its south part and the north-west bulge, this region will be defined in the nineteenth century as the 'Moslem Quarter'. In the west part of the city lay Haret en-Nasara in the middle of the area which will be named in modern times the 'Christian Quarter'. Two minorities dwelt in the south outskirts of the city: Jews in Haret el-Yahud, in the south-west part of the future Jewish Quarter and Armenians around their monastery in the south part of the modern Armenian Quarter. The layout of ethno-religious groups in sixteenth-century Jerusalem agreed then with the guidelines of their dispersal in the city in the thirteenth century described above.
  3. ^ Teller, Matthew (2022). Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City. Profile Books. p. Chapter 1. ISBN 978-1-78283-904-0. Retrieved 2023-05-30. What wasn't corrected, though - and what, in retrospect, should have raised much more controversy than it did (it seems to have passed completely unremarked for the last 170-odd years) - was [Aldrich and Symonds's] map's labelling. Because here, newly arcing across the familiar quadrilateral of Jerusalem, are four double labels in bold capitals. At top left Haret En-Nassara and, beneath it, Christian Quarter; at bottom left Haret El-Arman and Armenian Quarter; at bottom centre Haret El-Yehud and Jews' Quarter; and at top right - the big innovation, covering perhaps half the city - Haret El-Muslimin and Mohammedan Quarter. had shown this before. Every map has shown it since. The idea, in 1841, of a Mohammedan (that is, Muslim) quarter of Jerusalem is bizarre. It's like a Catholic quarter of Rome. A Hindu quarter of Delhi. Nobody living there would conceive of the city in such a way. At that time, and for centuries before and decades after, Jerusalem was, if the term means anything at all, a Muslim city. Many people identified in other ways, but large numbers of Jerusalemites were Muslim and they lived all over the city. A Muslim quarter could only have been dreamt up by outsiders, searching for a handle on a place they barely understood, intent on asserting their own legitimacy among a hostile population, seeing what they wanted to see. Its only purpose could be to draw attention to what it excludes.
  4. ^ Teller, Matthew (2022). Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City. Profile Books. p. Chapter 1. ISBN 978-1-78283-904-0. Retrieved 2023-05-30. But it may not have been Aldrich and Symonds. Below the frame of their map, printed in italic script, a single line notes that 'The Writing' had been added by 'the Revd. G. Williams' and 'the Revd. Robert Willis'… Some sources suggest [Williams] arrived before [Michael] Alexander, in 1841. If so, did he meet Aldrich and Symonds? We don't know. But Williams became their champion, defending them when the Haram inaccuracy came up and then publishing their work. The survey the two Royal Engineers did was not intended for commercial release (Aldrich had originally been sent to Syria under 'secret service'), and it was several years before their military plan of Jerusalem came to public attention, published first in 1845 by their senior officer Alderson in plain form, without most of the detail and labelling, and then in full in 1849, in the second edition of Williams's book The Holy City. Did Aldrich and/or Symonds invent the idea of four quarters in Jerusalem? It's possible, but they were military surveyors, not scholars. It seems more likely they spent their very short stay producing a usable street-plan for their superior officers, without necessarily getting wrapped up in details of names and places. The 1845 publication, shorn of street names, quarter labels and other detail, suggests that… Compounding his anachronisms, and perhaps with an urge to reproduce Roman urban design in this new context, Williams writes how two main streets, north-south and east-west, 'divide Jerusalem into four quarters.' Then the crucial line: 'The subdivisions of the streets and quarters are numerous, but unimportant.' Historians will, I hope, be able to delve more deeply into Williams's work, but for me, this is evidence enough. For almost two hundred years, virtually the entire world has accepted the ill-informed, dismissive judgementalism of a jejune Old Etonian missionary as representing enduring fact about the social make-up of Jerusalem. It's shameful… With Britain's increased standing in Palestine after 1840, and the growth of interest in biblical archaeology that was to become an obsession a few decades later, it was vital for the Protestant missionaries to establish boundaries in Jerusalem… Williams spread his ideas around. Ernst Gustav Schultz, who came to Jerusalem in 1842 as Prussian vice-consul, writes in his 1845 book Jerusalem: Eine Vorlesung ('A Lecture'): 'It is with sincere gratitude I must mention that, on my arrival in Jerusalem, Mr Williams ... willingly alerted me to the important information that he [and] another young Anglican clergyman, Mr Rolands, had discovered about the topography of [Jerusalem].' Later come the lines: 'Let us now divide the city into quarters,' and, after mentioning Jews and Christians, 'All the rest of the city is the Mohammedan Quarter.' Included was a map, drawn by Heinrich Kiepert, that labelled the four quarters, mirroring Williams's treatment in The Holy City.
  5. ^ Arnon, Adar (1992). "The Quarters of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Period". Middle Eastern Studies. 28 (1). Taylor & Francis, Ltd.: 5–7. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 4283477. Retrieved 2023-05-31. The origin of this ethno-religious partition lies in the nineteenth-century modern survey maps of Jerusalem drawn by Europeans - travellers, army officers, architects - who explored the city. The following verbal geographical definitions of the quarters will refer to this contemporarily prevailing division of the Old City. The ethno-religious partition of the Old City on the nineteenth-century maps reflected a situation rooted in history. Crusader Jerusalem of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, was partitioned among the residential territories of people from different European countries, Oriental Christian communities and knights orders. In 1244 Jerusalem returned to Moslem hands when it became part of the Ayyubid Sultanate of Egypt. The change of government coincided with a devastation of the city by the Central Asian tribe of Khawarizm which all but annihilated the city's population. In 1250 the Mamluks rose to power in Egypt. Under their rule Jerusalem became a magnet to pilgrims from all parts of the Islamic world. People from various regions, towns and tribes settled in it. The parts of the city preferred by the Moslems were those adjoining the north and west sides of the Temple Mount (the other two sides lay outside the city) on which stood their two revered mosques, the Dome of the Rock and al-Agsa Mosque. Christians from different denominations resettled in the north-west of the city, at the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Armenians settled in its south-west, near their Cathedral of St James which had been destroyd by the Khawarizms. Jews settled in Jerusalem, beginning with the second half of the thirteenth century, near the south wall of the city, because the territory there was not settled by any other community and separated from their venerated place, the West (Wailing) Wall, only by a small quarter of North-African Moslems. When the city changed hands again at the beginning of the sixteenth century, falling to the Ottoman Turks, no change in the city's population, and hence in its quarters occurred.
  6. ^ Arnon, Adar (1992). "The Quarters of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Period". Middle Eastern Studies. 28 (1). Taylor & Francis, Ltd.: 25–26. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 4283477. Retrieved 2023-05-31.
  7. ^ Beckles Willson, Rachel (2013). Orientalism and Musical Mission: Palestine and the West. Cambridge University Press. p. 146. ISBN 9781107036567.
  8. ^ a b c Moraes, Jessica da Costa Minati. "Helena of Constantinople". World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  9. ^ Hopkins 1971, p. 76.
  10. ^ Golan, Patricia (11 February 2005). "A Cloistered Community". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 1 February 2015.


  • Hopkins, I. W. J. (1971). "The four quarters of Jerusalem". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 103 (2): 68–84. doi:10.1179/peq.1971.103.2.68.
  • Wager, Eliyahu (1988). Tour No. 7: The Christian Quarter. Illustrated guide to Jerusalem. Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Publishing House. pp. 105–112.

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