Considered one of the first and greatest achievements of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock is a shrine constructed in AD 688-91 by the Omayyad caliph Abd el-Malik. Built to proclaim the superiority of Islam and provide an Islamic focal point in the Holy City, the majestic structure now dominates Jerusalem and is its symbol. The mathematically harmonious structure echoes elements of Classical and Byzantine architecture.
MOHAMMED’S NIGHT JOURNEY
The Koran, the holy book of Islam, is regarded as the exact word of Allah. Muslims believe that it can never be truly understood unless read in Arabic; translations into other languages can only ever paraphrase. The Koran is divided into 114 chapters, covering many topics. One of the core episodes recounts the Night Journey of the Prophet Mohammed. In this, he is carried from Mecca to Jerusalem and from there makes the Mira], the ascent through the heavens to God’s presence, returning to Mecca in the morning.
The story is illustrated with geometric tiling and verses on the exterior of the drum of the Dome of the Rock.
The Temple Mount, or Haram ash-Sharif, is located in the southeastern part of the Old City of Jerusalem It is a major Islamic religious sanctuary and home to a number of important buildings, including the Dome of the Rock. Traditionally the site of Solomon’s Temple, it later housed the Second Temple, enlarged by Herod the Great and destroyed by the Romans. Left in ruins for more than half a century, the Haram ash-Sharif became an Islamic shrine in 691 with the construction of the Dome of the Rock.
THE DOME OF THE CHAIN AND THE GOLDEN GATE
Just east of the Dome of the Rock stands the small Dome of the Chain, set at the approximate center of the Hararn ash-Sharif. The reasons given for its construction are varied. According to one theory, it sits at the site of the Holy of Holies (the most sacred and inaccessible place in Herod’s Temple), which is thought of in Jewish tradition as the omphalos, the navel of the universe. The Dome of the Chain is a simple structure with a domed roof supported by 17 columns. It is famous for its marvelous 13th-century interior tiling, which surpasses even that of the Dome of the Rock. Its name derives from the legend that a chain once hung from the roof and whoever told a lie while holding it would be struck dead by lightning. Farther east is the Golden Gate, one of the original Herodian city gates. Jews believe the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through this gate.
This is adorned with original mosaics (AD 692) and an inscription inviting Christians to recognize the truth of Islam.
The space between the inner and outer arcades forms a corridor around ltle Rock . The shrine’s two corridors recall the ritual circular movement of pilgrims around the Qaaba in Mecca.
This staircase leads down to a chamber under the Rock called the Well of Souls. The dead are said to meet here twice a month to pray.
The area just below the golden dome is the drum. It is decorated with tiles and verses from the Koran that tell of Mohammed’s Night Journey.
Crescent Finial and Dome
The dome was originally made of copper but is now covered with gold leaf, thanks to the financial support of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
Interior of the Dome
Inside the dazzing golden dome are elaborate floral decorations, as well as various inscriptions. The large text commemorates the Muslim sultan Saladin, who sponsored restoration work on the building.
Green and gold mosaics create a scintillating effect on the walls below the dome.
The multicolored tiles that adorn the exterior are faithful copies of Persian tiles that Suleyman the Magnificent added in 1545 to replace the damaged original mosaics.
The Rock is variously believed to be where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, where Mohammed left the Earth on his Night Journey, and the site of the Holy of Holies of Herod’s Temple.
Each wall is 67 ft (20 4 m) long. This exactly matches the dome’s diameter and its height from the base of the drum.
One of the oldest and most beautiful of all Islamic monuments, the Dome of the Rock is the third holiest site of Islam after Mecca and Medina. The shrine is also important in Judaism, since it stands on the site of the two temples of the Jews-the first built by King Soloman and the second by King Herod.
691: Building work on the Dome of the Rock is completed.
1500S: Suleyman the Magnificent commissions the dazzling tile work on the exterior.
1981: The Dome of the Rock joins UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.