On the main market street of the Old City, which begins at Damascus Gate and is called in arabic Suk Khan e-Zeit (the olive oil caravansary market), you will find a quaint pastry shop called Zalatimo. The speciality there is a sweet with cheese and walnut filling baked in the oven. The shop is mentioned in the most reputable guidebooks on Jerusalem, and indeed, Zalatimo is well worth a visit, but not just for the pastries. At the back of the shop you will find some extraordinary archaeological remains of the first Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Here you will see a door, about four meters high, which is braced by a massive stone wall on both sides. This door used to be part of the three-door monumental entrance gate to the first Holy Sepulchre Basilica, built by Constantine in 335 AD and later destroyed by the Caliph Hakim in 1009.

This can be easily verified by checking a famous map known as the Madaba map, which dates back to the sixth century A.D. The section of the map depicting Jerusalem reveals that Suk Khan e-Zeit (the olive oil caravansary market), where the Zalatimo pastry shop is located, was built right on top of the Roman Cardo.

The confectioner's secret

1. The Cardo - 2. The Nea Basilica  - 3. The Haghia Sion Basilica - 4. The Holy Sepulchre

Take a stroll on the mosaic with your mouse.

The Cardo was the main road that cut all Roman cities in half from north to south.You can see three churches on the map: two of them face west while their altars face east (as almost all Byzantine and Crusader churches were oriented). The third church is strangely oriented the opposite way; in fact, the map artist had to draw it backwards. This church has a three-door monumental gate. These elements have convinced historians that the third church is the first Holy Sepulchre Basilica.

In fact, Constantine wanted the Holy Sepulchre Church to be monumental: thus, it was crucial for the church's entrance to face both the most important street in Jerusalem, the Cardo, and the tomb of Jesus Christ, which was west of the street. The present Holy Sepulchre Basilica is not on the Cardo and does not face the west. Why? When the church was rebuilt by the Crusaders, the Cardo was no longer the main street of the city. Moreover, in the meantime the Muslims had built a mosque in the atrium of the Constantinian building. This limited the extension of the new church, which was subsequently oriented according to tradition, eastwards.