Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 6th century / AD 12th century
Height 32 cm, horizontal cross-section 20 cm x 20 cm
After Jerusalem was restored to the Muslims under the leadership of Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin) in AH 583 / AD 1187, he quickly tried to restore the Islamic character of Jerusalem generally, and that of the Haram al-Sharif specifically. The Muslims undertook the destruction and removal of Crusader additions to buildings, icons and decorations within the holy areas, until what remained was likely to be found only in the secular buildings. This operation provided a large quantity of building materials, especially invaluable marble and decorative stone fragments, most of which were re-used in the Ayyubid architectural projects in Jerusalem and outside. Some of these edifices are still standing and may still be seen today.
This column capital is a good example of the process of the effacement of Christian representational iconography. Despite the preservation of most of the constituents of the capital, which clearly manifest its origins and epoch, the animated features on it have largely been obliterated. The process of effacement may have taken place hurriedly, or it may have been a symbolic act, since clear traces of the birds' features remain in addition to vegetal decoration.
With the fall of Jerusalem under Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin), many Crusader additions were removed from al-Haram al-Sharif. This left behind many building materials including this carved marble capital. It was adorned with many vegetal, animal and human motifs and demonstrates the iconoclastic process in sacred Islamic sites.
The capital was dated by comparison of its carving and decorative themes with other Crusader pieces in Palestine.
This column capital was probably transferred from the Haram al-Sharif to the Islamic Museum during restorations, a process that is still underway. The Museum owns other Crusader column capitals that were exposed to iconoclastic acts.
Similar capitals remain in different areas of the Haram al-Sharif and Jerusalem. Some of these capitals remain in situ, while others were re-used in other buildings. Only some capitals were defaced, while others were largely untouched. It is probable that this capital was produced in Jerusalem.
Hunt, L. A., “Crusader Sculpture and the so-called Templar Workshop: A Reassessment of Two Carved Panels from the Dome of the Rock in al-Haram al-Sharif Museum in Jerusalem”, in Palestine Exploration Quarterly, No. 132, 2000.
Jacoby, Z., “The Workshop of the Temple Area in Jerusalem in the Twelfth Century: Its Origin, Evolution, and Impact”, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte,No. 45, 1982.
Jacoby, Z., “The Provencial Impact on Crusader Sculpture in Jerusalem: More Evidences on the Temple Area Atelier”, in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, No. 48, 1985.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Column capital" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;15;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 15
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Culture in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem
MWNF GalleriesArchitectural Elements
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