Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is considered to be one of the oldest and finest examples of Byzantine and emerging Islamic architecture.
The shrine was built over a rock considered sacred by both Muslims and Jews. The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into heaven from the site, while in Jewish tradition, Abraham is believed to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on the site.
An inscription establishes the date of completion of the Dome of the Rock as 691-692, having been built by the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik on the site of Herod’s Temple which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The Byzantine Christian model of churches and martyriums was followed for the overall form of the architectural dome, as well as the decorative mosaics. This is combined with Quranic inscriptions that adorn the building, promoting the virtues of Islam over Christianity.
The building is dominated by its large, wooden-gilt dome, approximately 20 m in diameter, and rising to a height of 30 m above the surrounding stone-paved platform. The dome’s shape symbolises the soaring ascent to heaven, and its circle represents the wholeness and balance that is essential to the Muslim faith.
The platform is supported by a circular arcade of four piers and twelve columns. An octagonal arcade surrounds this circle, comprising eight piers and sixteen columns, which help support the dome. The octagon is repeated in the outer wall, each of the eight sides measuring 18 m in width and 8 m in height.
The colour of the shrine is also symbolic. Sky blue suggests infinity, while gold represents the colour of the knowledge of Allah.
The interior decorations are extensive and elaborate. There are 1,280 sq. m of intricate mosaics covering the walls from a variety of periods, as well as painted timber, marble, multi-coloured tiles, carpets and carved stone. The mosaics use intricate patterns and geometric shapes in place of figurative art.
The Dome of the Rock has been modified several times since it was completed in the 7th century, with each new group that conquered Jerusalem laying claim to the structure in its own way. In 1016, the original dome collapsed and was rebuilt in 1021.
In the 16th century, the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent replaced the exterior mosaics with 45,000 blue and gold ceramic tiles.
In 1994, Jordan and Saudi Arabia donated 80 kg of gold to serve as a new covering for the iconic dome.
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