The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Islamic Art

What is the Dome of the Rock?

The Dome of the Rock is one of the earliest surviving mosques, built at the top of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem during the Umayyad Period (661-750 C.E.). The location is holy for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, and is thought to be the location of the creation of Adam, the place where Abraham (Ibrahim, in Arabic) brought his first-born son to be sacrificed, and the location of both Solomon and Herod’s temples. In Islam, the location is also associated with the Prophet Mohammad’s physical and spiritual journey to heaven known as the Isra and Mi’raj.

The Dome of the Rock is the third holiest site for Muslims, after the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca, and the Mosque of the Prophet (Al-Masjid al-Nabawi) in Medina. The building itself features two large ambulatories that circle 66 exposed rock, which allows enough space for the many pilgrims who visit the shrine. Similar to the structure of a centrally planned church, this circular structure was commonly used in Christian religious architecture in Jerusalem at the time. The center of the building is topped with a large, golden dome supported by inner and outer wooden shells, sixteen arched windows, stone piers, and interior columns. The columns, and their capitals, were constructed using recycled material from other Classical monuments. The interior and exterior of the Dome of the Rock is covered in highly stylized mosaics, with vegetal and floral designs as well as calligraphic inscriptions. The Dome of the Rock is a powerful monument to Islamic faith, exuding both permanence and elegance.

The Great Mosque at Córdoba was built in Spain in the eighth century and is known for its impressive hypostyle hall, a pillared interior made of recycled Roman columns that gives the impression of a “forest of columns.”


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