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Builders of Jerusalem

Arab stonemasons at work in Jerusalem, circa 1900


Granger – All rights reserved.

"Viewing Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, one is faced with the city’s apparently sculptural feel. Jerusalem’s cobblestones, flying buttresses and vaulted roofs together summon a ubiquitous visual uniformity. Stone is what these elements have in common. However, stone is not merely the substance that grants Jerusalem its aesthetic identity: it is the material that has defined the city’s trajectory since its earliest foundations. Every story of Jerusalem is also a story of its stone.

Quarried from the hills surrounding the city, as well as from other nearby hills in Palestine’s central highlands, Jerusalem limestone has been the city’s primary building material since antiquity. It is at once the material that carries its structural skeleton and the flesh that grants the cityscape its golden hue. Generations of local stonemasons have long tended to the material’s qualities and varieties; each type of stone has a local name based on its specific texture, tint and malleability. Whether it ends up in the city’s tiniest architectural detail or its grandest monument, every stone is a contribution to the many sediments of matter, and of history, that make up Jerusalem."1



Excerpted from Nadi Abusaada. “Jerusalem Stone: The History and Identity of Palestinian Stereotomy,” The Architectural Review, April 12, 2022

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