More has been written about the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem than any other Islamic building. The reason is clear: even though its patron and date are known, its original function is not. It is mentioned in no historical sources dating from the period of its erection or even shortly after. The building’s purpose, or purposes, has to be deduced from its location, form and decoration, including its inscriptions.
The location is of course most significant, in the center of the Temple Mount. This was the great enclosed platform upon which the Temple of Solomon had once stood until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The enclosure is also graced with an earlier Islamic building, the Aqsa Mosque, which in its first state was probably built by one of Abd al-Malik’s caliphal predecessors.
Panorama of the Temple Mount, including Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, from the Mount of Olives.
The Dome of the Rock’s plan of a circular core surrounded by one or more ambulatories, themselves either octagonal or circular, is shared by three earlier buildings in Jerusalem: the Church of the Ascension, the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of these buildings has an important commemorative function, and it is likely that the builder of the Dome of the Rock wanted it to be immediately recognized as having a similar purpose.
The Dome of the Rock
This book tells the story of the Dome of the Rock, from the first fateful decades of its creation – on the esplanade built in the fourth decade B.C.E. for the Second Jewish Temple – to its engulfment in the clashes of the Crusades and the short-lived Christianization of all of Jerusalem, to its modern acquisition of different and potent meanings for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures.
The exterior of the Dome of the Rock was originally covered in mosaic similar to that which adorns the building’s interior. The outside was redecorated in tiles by the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, although these were replaced by modern copies in the 1960s. Although restored, the pristine state of the mosaics inside the monument explains why it was thought so magnificent. Acanthus leaves, cornucopias, fruit garlands, and diadems are surmounted by the Word of God: phrases from the Quran.
Damascus and Jerusalem in a 1936 Documentary
Dome of the Rock – One of Jerusalem’s best known landmarks: Touristic view of Damascus and Jerusalem, showing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Haram-esh-Sherif, Mount of Olives, the Wailing Wall, the Jaffa Gate in the old west wall of the city and the dome of the rock.
Dome of the Rock Photographic Poster Prints
According to Islamic tradition, the rock is the spot from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Jews have traditionally regarded the location of the stone as the holiest spot on Earth, the site of the Holy of Holies during the Temple Period.