The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was erected by the Muslim ruler Abd el-Malik in 688-691.
The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Islamic monument that stands today and certainly one of the most beautiful.
The rock over which the shrine was built is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is traditionally believed to have ascended into heaven from the site.
In the Judeo/Christian tradition it is here that Abraham, the progenitor and first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where the Jewish First Temple and Second Temple had stood.
The Dome’s structure and ornamentation are rooted in the Byzantine architectural tradition, yet its construction in the 7th century represents an early stage in the emergence of a distinct Islamic visual style.
The dome, which is approximately 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter and is mounted on an elevated drum, rises above a circle of 16 piers and columns.
Below the dome a portion of the sacred rock is exposed and protected by a railing.The sacred rock is the central focus of the shrine.It is a large, ancient rock that may have once stood in the center of Solomon’s Temple.
The cavity beneath the rock, accessible by a staircase near the south entrance, is known as Bir el-Arwah, the “Well of Souls.” It is said that here the voices of the dead mingle with the falling waters of the lower rivers of paradise as they drop into eternity.
The outer walls also form an octagon, with each of the eight sides being approximately 18 metres (60 feet) wide and 11 meters (36 feet) high.
Arabic religious inscriptions run around the octagonal arcade.
The great golden dome that crowns the Dome of the Rock was originally made of gold, but was replaced with copper and then aluminum. The aluminum is now covered with gold leaf, a donation from the late King Hussein of Jordan.
The dome is topped by a full moon decoration which evokes the familiar crescent moon symbol of Islam. It is aligned so that if you could look through it, you would be looking straight towards Mecca.
The beautiful multicolored Turkish tiles that adorn the shrine’s exterior are faithful copies of the Persian tiles that Suleiman the Magnificent added in 1545 to replace the damaged originals. The lower half of the exterior is white marble.
The interior mosaics are similar in technique to those found in Byzantine churches including San Vitale in Ravenna and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.The Dome’s mosaics exclude any representations of human or animal forms (Muslim law forbids the representation of living beings in art), instead featuring Arabic script and vegetal patterns intermixed with images of items such as jewels and crowns.
The interior of the great golden dome, features elaborate floral decorations in red and gold, as well as various inscriptions. The main inscription in the cupola commemorates Saladin, who sponsored extenstive restoration work on the building.
The carved ceilings on either side of the inner octagon were not part of the original design; they first appeared in the 14th century and have been restored since then. The Mamluk star is the dominant motif.
The columns supporting the inner octagon and the center circle are of different sizes; they were recycled from previous structures. The crosses on some show them to have been taken from churches.
The small, flat mihrab (niche showing the direction of Mecca) belongs to the original building, and is the oldest mihrab preserved in the Islamic world.
The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine. Like the Ka’ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone.
The original function and significance of the Dome of the Rock are uncertain.
Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages believed the Dome of the Rock to be the Temple of Solomon.
The Knights Templar were quartered there following the conquest of Jerusalem by a Crusader army in 1099, and Templar churches in Europe imitated its design.The Dome was used as church until a Muslim army recaptured Jerusalem in 1187.
Since its construction the Dome of the Rock has been modified several times. One significant restoration, ordered by the Ottoman sultan Süleyman I in the 16th century, replaced the exterior mosaics with coloured ceramic tiles.
In the 20th century, damaged interior and exterior ornaments were repaired or replaced, and the dome was given a new gold covering.
The Dome of the Rock has inspired the architecture of a number of buildings. These include the octagonal Church of St. Giacomo in Italy, the Mausoleum of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, the octagonal Moorish Revival style Rumbach Street Synagogue in Budapest, and the New Synagogue in Berlin, Germany.
The Dome of the Rock has been called “Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark”.