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Dome of the Rock

Islamic architecture is frequently noted for the splendor of the mosaics and tiles that ornament mosques, mausoleums and palaces. It is fitting, therefore, that the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the earliest surviving example of Muslim building, is as beautifully adorned as any. Yet, although it stands at the head of a long tradition of such elaborate decorative schemes, the Dome of the Rock is atypical in most other ways: the borrowed building type is not one of the characteristic forms later developed by Islamic culture; its intended use is uncertain, unlike most later Islamic architecture where function is unambiguous; and the decorative mosaics inside the dome not only reflect the cultures from which the styles were derived but also constitute an iconographic program whose meaning has been obscured by time. In one important respect, however, the building is typically Islamic. For, in addition to the somewhat obscure representations of vegetation and jewels in the mosaics, there is also a band of Quranic inscriptions, also in mosaic, that runs around the lower edge of the interior of the dome. There, for the first time, it is possible to see how the beauty of the calligraphy serves as a complement to the divine words and fulfills a function that could be called 'decorative' but is far more profound than that. In the Dome of the Rock, however, the quotations from the Quran also provide essential clues to the building's function and the meaning of the rest of the mosaic decoration. Following a brief history of the building and a discussion of its probable stylistic sources, it will be shown how the iconography of the mosaics and the meanings of the Quranic inscriptions provide the best explanation of the builder's motives and of the function of the monument.

The Dome of the Rock stands near the center of the artificial esplanade (known as the Haram al-Sharif) atop Mount Moriah where Solomon's temple once stood (Fig. 1). ...

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Dome of the Rock. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:59, August 07, 2020, from