The Meaning of the Dome of the Rock

  • Derek Hopwood
Part of the St Antony’s book series


Together with the Alhambra and the Taj Mahal, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is without doubt the best known monument of Islamic architecture. It is visited every year by thousands of tourists, it appears on posters and stamps and its strikingly simple profile of a gilt cupola on a high drum rising from an octagon covered with glittering tiles has been copied in recent years on nearly all possible materials—from textiles to prints—as the Dome of the Rock has also become a symbol of Palestinian nostalgies and aspirations as well as of fundamentalist—and not so fundamentalist—Islamic ambitions and piety. This mixture of national, ethnic, and religious associations around a monument or a place on earth is, of course, not unusual and, in our days of ideological conflicts, it is intensified whenever sacred places or national monuments are in partibus infedelium. This is curiously the case with the Alhambra and with the Taj Mahal as well as with the Dome of the Rock, so that three of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture are not in territories under the immediate control of Muslims. Accidents of history perhaps, but, as I shall try to show in the case of the Dome of the Rock, the complexity of contemporary meanings associated with it is, whatever modern reasons led to the complexity, more than matched by those of the past.


Tourist Guide Seventh Century National Monument Curtain Wall Sacred Place 
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Copyright information

© St. Antony’s College 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Hopwood
    • 1
  1. 1.St Antony’s CollegeUniversity of OxfordUK

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