Bird’s Eye View of Jerusalem, Stephan Illes, 1873
This is a scale map from 1873 which shows Jerusalem from a bird’s eye view facing northeast. The map shows the characteristics of Jerusalem in the second half of the nineteenth century. There are only a few buildings outside the walls of the Old City, but a telegraph line leading to the city suggests early signs of modernisation. Around the edge of the city are the Russian Compound, the Bishop Gobat School, and Mount Zion.
The map is designed as if the viewer is standing at a vantage point high in the southwest of the city – even though there is no such topographical viewpoint in Jerusalem. Likewise, the shadow on the map faces south, which isn’t possible in the northern hemisphere. Thus, although this is a remarkably accurate map, it isn’t the result of an actual view of the city of Jerusalem; rather, it is a drawing of an accurate model of the city made by Stephan Illes.
Stephen Illes was a Hungarian Catholic bookbinder who lived in Jerusalem between 1864 and 1880. Illes created the model on which he based this 5 x 4.5 metre map. The model was presented at the World Expo in Vienna in 1873 and in other major cities in Europe and was sold in Geneva in 1878, where it was displayed for many years before being stored away and forgotten. The model was rediscovered and brought back to Jerusalem in 1985 where it is on display at the Tower of David museum in Jerusalem.
Geography teachers can use this resource to analyse the geography of Jerusalem and to compare the city of the nineteenth century to the city today. Teachers can also show this map to discuss the different ways in which maps are made.
In Jewish Studies classes on the history of Jerusalem, this map can be used when discussing the expansion of Jerusalem over the last 100 years and the new neighbourhoods that have been built.
Who created this map?
When was this map created?
What historical buildings are featured in this map?
Where was this map displayed?
How big was this map when it was created?
Reading Between the Lines
The map is shown from a high point above the city of Jerusalem – a point that does not actually exist – and the shadows in the map come from the wrong direction.
What does this tell you about the map and the way it was created?
The map is very large.
What purpose can such a big map have?
Which buildings on this map still exist in Jerusalem? Have you visited any of them?
Find information about the population and residents of Jerusalem in the period in which this map was prepared. What did you find?
Create a bird’s eye portrait of your house or school.