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THE EARLIEST SURVIVING PHOTOGRAPHS OF JERUSALEM
The history of the area known in the 19th century as Palestine or the Holy Land is long and complex and unfolds around the city of Jerusalem. David made it the capital of the Jewish Kingdom of Israel in circa 1000 BC. His successor, Solomon expanded the city, built a city wall and improved and enlarged the temple, but in the 6th century BC the Temple of Solomon was destroyed and the Jews exiled from the city by Babylonian conquerors. A new or Second Temple was instigated under Persian rule a generation later, when Jews were allowed to return to the city. Over the following centuries the city was ruled in turn by Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Syrians. Under King Herod in the 1st century BC, the retaining wall for the Temple Mount was constructed, parts of which survive today as the city's Western Wall. The city retained its religious importance while under Roman rule, becoming a destination for Christian pilgrims, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in the 4th century during the reign of Constantine the Great.
In the 7th century Persian invaders destroyed the city, and in 637 the city was conquered by the Muslim Caliph Umar I. The Dome of the Rock, standing on the site of the First and Second Temples, was built in 688-691 on the Temple Mount, as was the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Rock, already sacred to Jews, now became sacred to Muslims. In the 11th century Muslims destroyed Christian shrines and closed routes previously used by pilgrims and for trade, and this fuelled the start of the Crusades. For the next few hundred years the city remained mostly under Muslim rule. In 1517, The Ottoman sultan Selim I conquered the city and it was to remain under Ottoman rule until the 20th century, when it came under British rule in 1917. It was under Turkish rule in the 16th century that the new city walls were built, which still encircle the Old City today.
After a nine-year period of Egyptian rule (1831-40) Palestine was opening up gradually to western visitors, with the establishment of consulates in Jerusalem. The population of the city grew throughout the 19th century, with an increase in Jewish immigration, mainly from Eastern Europe. As always, the city remained a place of pilgrimage, held equally sacred by the followers of three religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was a prime location in the Middle East for any western traveller.
Girault de Prangey arrived in Jerusalem on May 21, 1844. He was preceded, as elsewhere in the region, by Goupil Fesquet, and may have overlapped with the visit, in 1844, of George Skene Keith. Keith was a Scottish physician who was making daguerreotypes to use as the basis for engravings illustrating his book relating the study of the Bible to the landscape of the Holy Land, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion. No daguerreotypes by either of these other photographers are known to exist today.
For reproductions of two engravings after daguerreotypes by George Skene Keith, see Nir,Y., The Bible and the Image, pp. 36-39