Art History 130c Report
Dome of the Rock: Jerusalem
The Dome of the Rock is in an area surrounded by religious influences and not all these are Islamic. It is located on the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, which has gone through many religious changes. Religious groups have been fighting over this area for thousands of years and the fighting still continues today. Many different groups have inhabited this region, but not many have made the impact as the group responsible for the Dome of the Rock. The most dramatic change came when the Muslims took Jerusalem the Christians. When this historical event happened, the Muslims wanted to get rid of any Christian influence, and the Dome of the Rock reflects this idea. This new ruling group wanted to take the religious focus from every previous Christian piece of architecture and turn it towards the Dome of the Rock. To accomplish the construction of a building that overlooked all over Jerusalem, there needed to be a elevated, flat space. The location of its construction is a plateau above the holy city and is another clue to what the Muslims were trying to accomplish. The Haram had many Christian holy spots located there, including the tomb of Christ and the rotunda above it. The structure we see today, has pro Islam calligraphy on the outside walls as well as the mosaics located inside. This use of calligraphy in art work in the Dome of the Rock is one of the first used in Muslim architecture. They use the calligraphy for Qur’anic versus’ as well as explain their faith to people visiting the Dome. Even though the Muslims were trying to out do the previous 2
religion, Christian influence is seen through the octagonal shape of the structure. Along with the location and calligraphy, the nature theme of the art work inside show the religious shift that was taking place at the time of its creation. In early Islamic art that was used during this period of time, no human art forms are used. This was against Islamic law, and much of the Christian architecture of the region followed completely opposite guidelines with human forms. When the Islamic religion took hold of this region, they did not integrate the Christian holy structures into a Mosque, but instead used Islamic art and architecture in the building of the Dome of the Rock to show the new Islamic dominance over the existing Christian architecture.
“Tradition-Jewish, Christian and Muslim-holds that Solomon built this Temple, dedicated to the Israelite God Yahweh, in the southeast corner of what is now Jerusalem’s Old City, on a platform known to the Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).”() (figure 1). The area known to the Muslims as Haram as-Sharif only because of its overlooking presence on the city of Jerusalem, was a very religious cite for the Christian religion that has ideas the Muslims do not agree with. In the Islamic faith, the followers believe Jesus was not the son of God. They believe Jesus was a prophet, but was not the son of God as he claimed during his life on earth. This is the major difference between the two faiths and has caused controversy among members of both religions. The single idea of whether or not Jesus is the son of God has, and will keep these two groups competing for dominance. This competition can be seen through the location the architect chose for the 3
Dome of the Rock. The Omayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik chose this position to draw attention from the old “center of Jerusalem” and the Christian Holy Sepulchre church and the rotunda over the tomb of Jesus, to a new Islamic architectural creation that later was caped with a golden dome.
The Dome of the Rock now, dominates the Jerusalem skyline. Al-Malik’s plan worked, but was intended to do much more than just overlook old Christian structures. They wanted nothing to do with these structures and it is reflected by many of the themes chosen for this piece...