Dome of the Rock

Dominating the skyline of Jerusalem, a landmark without doubt, is the beautiful shrine of the Dome of the Rock. Built on a platform over the rock of Mt. Moriah more than 1300 years ago by the Muslim Umayyad Caliph AbdulMalek bin Marwan, the shrine was completed in 691 AD, 6 years after building commenced. It is a shrine in Al-Aqsa Mosque commemorating the Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) miraculous journey to the Seven Heavens. Eight stairways with arcades lead to the raked platform of the Dome of the Rock. There is a sun dial atop the center top archway, accurate to within five minutes of the actual time. The shrine holds 1500 people at prayer. Men and women pray in different sections in accordance with Muslim tradition. For Friday noon prayers (Al-Asr), the Dome of the Rock is for women only. The Rock over which the mathematically precise octagonal shrine is built measures 12×15 meters, and rises 2 meters above Al-Aqsa Mosque’s level ground. The cave below the rock is known as the Cave of Souls. Four sides of the octagon have large arched gates facing due north, south, east and west. 28 reused Byzantine and Roman marble columns and capitals form two rows around the rock. The columns are joined by 24 arches covered with the original colored stone and glass mosaic signifying the fruits of paradise and heaven. Of the 54 windows, 2 are clear glass and 36 are colored glass. The 16 colored glass windows in the drum have Qur’anic verses and are among the most beautiful windows in the World. The Dome rises 25 meters from the floor equivalent to a building of 10 floors. The crescent atop the dome rises 4½ meters. The diameter of the outer dome is 21 meters, the inner dome 20 meters. The original 1st century outer dome was copper. It was changed to lead in the 9th century to anodized aluminum in 1964, and in 1994, the gilded copper/brass dome was covered with 60 Kgs of 24k gold. The inner wooden dome is decorated with stucco and was restored by Salahuddin Al-Ayyoubi in 1187 after defeating the Crusaders. During the Crusader period, the Dome of the Rock was renamed Templum Domini. The Crusaders marveled at its beauty. Originally, colored glass and stone mosaics covered the outer walls of the Dome of the Rock. Of any building still remaining from the 7th century, this shrine has the largest area of original mosaic. During the Ottoman period (1517-1918), the outer walls were recovered with brilliant blue, green, yellow and white ceramic tiles in either Arabesque design or with Qur’anic verses. Original tiles can still be seen on the outside of the drum. The rest of the tiles were restored in 1964.

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