Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock is located at the centre of the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Hegira 72 / AD 691
Raja’ bin Haywa and Yazid bin Sal'am participated in the construction of the building. The name of the craftsman, Muhammad bin Balawar is associated with renovations that took place during the Fatimid era. Mustafa Raqam is linked with the late Ottoman restorations (AH 13th / AD 19th century).
The Umayyad caliph, 'Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (r. AH 65–86 / AD 685–705). The building was renovated by a large number of Muslim caliphs and sultans. The most prominent among them being: the Fatimid caliph, al-Zahir (r. AH 411–27 / AD 1021–36), Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin, r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93) and the Ottoman sultan, Sulayman the Magnificent (r. 926–74 / AD 1520–66).
Dome of the Rock is one of the oldest Islamic monuments still standing today. It has a grandiose monumental form representing one of a small number of buildings in the Islamic world that may be chronicled as part of the creation and formation of an Islamic art in general.
Dome of the Rock is built on an octagonal plan topped by a semi-circular great dome and supported by a circular drum. Four doors, each facing one of the cardinal directions, are built into the walls of the building. The façades are covered with marble panels at the bottom and ceramic (glazed) tiles at the top. These tiles date back to the time of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent who ordered the replacement of the original glass mosaic with ceramic tiles in the period AH 952–9 / AD 1545–52. The marble panels were also renewed several times. The interior or inner drum, the cylinder which carries the dome, is also adorned with glass mosaic tiles. At present the outer dome is covered with gold-plated copper panels, although it was formerly of lead covered with a thin layer of gold-plate.
Both the interior and exterior of the Dome of the Rock is built on an octagonal plan, surrounding the exalted Rock. According to Islamic belief the Rock is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens (Mi'raj) on the night of his nocturnal journey from Mecca to Jerusalem (Isra'). The interior octagonal (which follows the outer octagon walls) is supported by eight piers and 16 columns. The rotunda is supported by four piers and 12 columns. Between the piers and columns span semi-circular arches, the façades and surfaces of which are decorated with mosaic tiles and colourful epigraphic texts. The rotunda is covered by a double dome. The inner dome has a diameter of 20.44 m, and is considered to be the oldest wooden structure still extant. It is composed of wooden panels that are decorated with written inscriptions and geometric decorations against a stucco background. Sixteen windows open on to the inside of the dome's drum. The drum is adorned with mosaic decorations and inscriptions from the Qur'an; it is enriched by a large number of inscriptions belonging to different restoration projects carried out by Muslim caliphs and sultans, the most famous being those that date to the Umayyad, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The dome is devoid of figurative decoration and exemplifies a response to changing religious orientation.
This is the jewel of Islamic architecture and the oldest Islamic monument that has not undergone fundamental changes. It thus provides very important testimony to the creation and formation of Islamic architecture and early Islamic decorative arts. It is also considered to be one of the most beautiful monuments in the world. The building is octagonal in form and is covered on the outside with marble and glazed tilework. The interior is decorated with marble, mosaics, plaster and wood. The great gold dome that towers over the building symbolises Jerusalem.
The building is dated by a foundation inscription, written in the kufic script. Furthermore, there are a group of early Muslim historians such as al-Maqdisi al-Bishari, the famous geographer (who died at the end of the 4th / 10th century) and who dated the construction of the building to 72 / 691.
Creswell, K. A. C., Early Muslim Architecture, Vol. 1,Oxford, 1932.
Grabar, O., and Nuseibah, S., Dome of the Rock, New York, 1996.
Al-Natseh, Y., Qubbat al-Sakhra al-Mushrrafa: Jauhara al-Quds wa al-Masjid al-Aqsa al-Mubarak [Dome of the Rock: The Jewel of Jerusalem and the Early al-Aqsa Mosque], Jerusalem, 2002.
Richmond, E. T., Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem: A Description of its Structure and Decoration, Oxford, 1924.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.76–8; 54.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Dome of the Rock" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;4;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 04
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Umayyads | Official Patronage Arabic Calligraphy | Monumental Calligraphy Pilgrimage | The Quest for Baraka – Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Palestine Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Saladin in the Holy Land Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Pilgrimage to the Holy Land The Umayyads | The Formation of Islamic Art Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Culture in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem The Ottomans | Guardians of the Holy Sites
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