A comic strip that traces the history of Jerusalem over 4,000 years

Retracing the multi-millennial and universal history of the city of Jerusalem: such is the mission given to themselves by Vincent Lemire, historian and director of the French research center in Jerusalem, and Christophe Gaultier, illustrator, in History of Jerusalem (Les Arènes editions).

On 253 pages and 10 chapters, the duo, mixing historical and scientific rigor, thus narrates in this exceptional comic strip both the beauty and the complexity of the city, destroyed 18 times, these cycles of wars and peace, of eras of grandeur and decadence.

Actors and witnesses of the evolution of the city “thrice holy”, famous or anonymous, all those who have surveyed Jerusalem over the centuries, thus recount in the book this “mille-feuille of composite influences”.

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Among those crossed: a 4,000-year-old olive tree, the main character of the book, which sprouted on the mount of the same name, facing the Old Town; Aristaeus, a Jew from Alexandria; the Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus, who marvels at the temple built by Herod; the anonymous from Bordeaux, who gave the oldest account of a Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem; or the Arab traveler and geographer, Al-Maqdisi, born in Jerusalem in the tenth century.

About the olive tree, Vincent Lemire has Explain the newspaper The echoes “The tree is a fixed point in this jumble of conquests and destructions. It serves as a reassuring anchor point for the reader and sometimes it allows you to step aside, to escape from the big story to follow the little story. »

Nothing is invented: the scenes and the dialogues come from more than 200 published sources and unpublished archives.

“I didn’t want to give anything away on the authenticity of the sources. I searched, sometimes for weeks, for a letter, a judicial archive, a pilgrim’s story, which could illustrate such and such a historical fact, ”explained the historian, who worked on the book for six years.

“4,000 years ago, Jerusalem was a small isolated town, perched on a ridge line between the Mediterranean and the desert. Today, it is an agglomeration of almost a million inhabitants, which focuses the eyes and attracts visitors from all over the world”, reads the back cover of the book.

“In the meantime, monotheisms have been invented there, the greatest conquerors have seized it, the greatest empires have clashed there. Alternately Egyptian, Persian, Jewish, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman, English, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian, Jerusalem is at the heart of the interests and passions of the world. Cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it is today a spiritual capital for more than half of humanity. »

“We have always told the story of Jerusalem by talking about the civilizations that have succeeded there, but never from the point of view of the city and its inhabitants. This tendency to cut history into slices gave the impression of watertight and compartmentalized periods,” explains Vincent Lemire. “However, from the moment that religious communities share the same place, their traditions circulate. One of the constants of this comic strip is to show that there are strong porosities between monotheistic traditions. And it is undoubtedly in Jerusalem that we discover it best. »

The researcher has been working on the history of the city for 25 years. He is a specialist, among other things, in the Maghreb district. He has published several books on Jerusalem, including Jerusalem 1900. The Holy City in the Age of Possibilitiestranslated into several languages.

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A comic strip that traces the history of Jerusalem over 4,000 years