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7.3: Jerusalem Dome of the Rock (691 CE)

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  • The Dome of the Rock, completed in 691 CE, is a mosque located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem and is considered one of the oldest intact works of Islamic art. The gilded gold dome with blue tile mosaics is one of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in Jerusalem. The location of the Temple Mount (7.9) has been occupied by various religions over thousands of years; Jewish temples, a Roman temple to Jupiter, or a Christian church in the Byzantine era, all erected and destroyed by different invaders and wars throughout time. After the Muslim siege of Jerusalem in 637 CE, the Dome of the Rock was constructed, surviving as a building until today, one of the first significant Islamic buildings.

    Temple Mount overview
    7.9 Temple Mount overview
    Dome of the Rock
    7.10 Dome of the Rock

    The Dome of the Rock (7.10) was built over a sacred rock site to protect the place where Muhammad is believed to have journeyed to heaven and united with the other prophets. The exterior walls (7.11) were built with limestone quarried nearby, deteriorating over time, neglected by succeeding rulers. In 1545, the Ottoman sultan completed extensive repairs and covered the exterior walls with blue mosaics and several different colors of tiles, including several inscriptions from the Koran on the walls. From a distance, the colored exterior walls provide an interesting contrast against the desert browns.

    Exterior wall
    7.11 Exterior wall

    The architects designed the Dome of the Rocks outer walls in an octagon shape, the inside dome (7.12) in a circle almost twenty meters in diameter and rising to a height of fifty-four meters. The dome was placed on top of twenty-four columns and piers for support and clearance from the sacred rock bed. The building is covered inside and outside with mosaics similar to other temples built in the same era. The mosaic art contains plant-based scrolls, motifs, and extensive use of calligraphy, all based on very symmetrical, repeating designs (7.13).

    Inside of dome
    7.12 Inside of dome
    Dome mosaics
    7.13 Dome mosaics