A Visit to Jerusalem in Quebec

VISITORS to modern-day Jerusalem can try to imagine what it must have looked like back in Bible times. However, one unique view of this ancient city can actually be enjoyed some 5,000 miles [8,500 km] west of Jerusalem in a little town nestled on the St. Lawrence River in Canada. There, visitors are offered a sweeping panoramic view of Jerusalem and its surroundings. But how can that be? An explanation is in order.

Housed in a circular building in the town of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, Quebec, is one of the world’s largest panoramic paintings, the Great Cyclorama of Jerusalem. This colossal work measures 45 feet [14 m] in height and 360 feet [110 m] in circumference. Although not all of its details are accurate, the painting is still of interest to Bible students, as it affords a strikingly realistic depiction of life in the Jerusalem of Bible times.

Viewing the painting from a platform in the center of the building, visitors gaze at the countryside surrounding first-century Jerusalem. As their eyes follow the full 360-degree panorama, the famed city itself bursts into view with its prominent walls, glorious temple, and luxurious palaces. Farther over, another scene comes to life depicting the last moments of Jesus’ earthly existence. The illusion of this monumental work is so lifelike that viewers have the feeling of being in the scene, milling with the crowds in the streets of Jerusalem.

Surprisingly, this exciting three-dimensional-effect painting is no recent achievement. In fact, Paul Philippoteaux, a famous artist from Paris, worked on it from 1878 to 1882. Five other painters​—two from the United States, two from France, and one from England—​helped him to execute his masterpiece. The original idea for the painting, however, is credited to German painter Bruno Piglhein, who was determined to do something to correct public ignorance about daily life in Biblical times. After completion in Munich, Germany, the work was put on exhibition in the great capitals of Europe. Since 1895 it has been on permanent display in Canada.

[Picture Credit Line on page 31]

All photos: Cyclorama de Jérusalem inc.