This plate is one of several compiled by Pierotti that contains more than a single main subject or image. Here we have a detailed architectural plan of the Armenian Church of Saint James (a.k.a. the Cathedral of Saint James or the Armenian Cathedral of Saint Jacob), complemented by a cross-section of the building and several insets showing some of the ornamental detail (in this case, mosaic designs). The cathedral is located near the Zion Gate in the Armenian Quarter of Old Jerusalem. The Armenian church is among the oldest functioning churches in the Old City and is dedicated to two of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles: James, the son of Zebedee (James the Greater), and James, the brother of Jesus (James the Just).
The cathedral’s history can be traced back to the 12th century, when medieval pilgrim, Johan of Würzburg, visited Jerusalem in 1162. From his descriptions, we can surmise that the Cathedral of Saint James had been completed and taken into use by then. This has led some historians (e.g. Nurith Kenaan-Kedar) to speculate that it was built during the reign of Queen Melisende, the eldest daughter of the Crusader King, Baldwin II of Jerusalem. Melisende reigned as regent for her son between 1131 and 1153 and may have commissioned the church during this period. Part of the motivation may have been her Armenian heritage on her mother’s side. Whether true or not, Saint James is generally considered one of the oldest active cathedrals in the city.
The church is the principal place of worship for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem (also known as the Armenian Patriarchate of Saint James). It is a popular site for pilgrims who come to visit and pay their respects to the holy apostles and the Armenian Patriarchate. Its stunning architecture and intricate design make it an important architectural landmark and a destination for anyone interested in the city’s religious history and culture. As is common in Pierotti’s lithographed plans and views, this plate has been supplied with subtle labelling, referencing a numbered legend on an accompanying sheet:
2. Church of S. James.
4. Throne for the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.
5. Door of the Chapel of S. Stephen.
6. Altar of the Latins for the Commemoration of the Feast of S. James.
7. Site of the Martyrdom of S. James.
8. Door of the Treasury.
9. Tomb of the Armenian Patriarch Magar.
11. Passage of the Gallery.
12. Throne for the Armenian Patriarch Magar.
13. Iron Barrier.
15. Chapel of S. Stephen.
16. Passages to the Armenian Convent.
17. Chapel of S. Miazim.
18. Ancient Stones.
19. Staircase of the Gallery.
20. Entrance to the Chapel of S. Miazim.
C. Ancient Mosaics.
D. Modern Mosaics.
(S. C.) Conventional Signs.
a. Ancient Wall.
b. Less ancient Wall.
c. Modern Wall.
d. Less modern Wall.
e. The Black colour in the Mosaics.
f. The Red colour.
g. The Yellow colour.
In 1864, the same year that the first British Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem was commissioned, Italian engineer Ermete Pierotti published Jerusalem Explored, a seminal work on the history, archaeology, and architectural history of the ancient and holy city. This work included Pierotti’s notes and insights after years of surveying and mapping under Ottoman authority. The publication was divided into a text volume and a volume of plates. The latter included 63 lithographs showing everything from strategic views, across architectural plans and section profiles, to panoramic vistas of the Old City. Most of the lithographed plates were based either on photographs or drawings made by Pierotti and his team.
The plates were lithographed mainly by Thomas Picken of London and printed by the prominent British lithography firm William Day & Sons.