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The Meaning of the Dome of the Rock

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Tourist Guide Seventh Century National Monument Curtain Wall Sacred Place 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The earliest of these is Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Wasiti, F. al-Bayt al-Muqaddas, ed. Isaac Hasson (Jerusalem, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. The most celebrated is Muji al-Din, al-Uns al-Jalil bitarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil (Cairo, 1283 fl.), partial tr. by Henri Sauvaire, Histoire de Jérusalem (Paris, 1876).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    M. H. Burgoyne, Mamluk Jerusalem (London, 1986).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Max van Berchem, Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum: Jérusalem Haram (Cairo, 1925–27). Christel Kessler, ‘Abd al-Malik’s Inscription’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 3 (1970).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    All these texts are conveniently summarized in G. Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (Boston, 1890), one of several such books.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Robert Hamilton, The Structural History of the Aqsa Mosque (Jerusalem, 1942); his results can be interpreted in other ways than he has proposed but the book is a model of its kind. Considerable information can also be obtained from the records kept at the so-called Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.Google Scholar
  7. For the Israeli excavations, see M. Ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple (New York, 1985), a popular account.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Nothing has superceded the chapters in K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, rev. ed. (Oxford, 1969).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Much novel cultural history has been written recently on this period. As examples, see H. Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates (London, 1986)Google Scholar
  10. and various work by Patricia Crone, like (with M. Cook) Hagarism (Cambridge, 1977).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    All these examples are in Creswell. For a more imaginative but also more debatable view of the same monuments, see M. Ecochard, Filiations de Monuments (Paris, 1977).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Tabari, Tarikh, ed. M. de Goeje et al. (Leiden, 1890 and ff.), II, 4 and ff.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    J. Wellhausen, The Arab Kingdom (rep. Beirut, 1963), pp. 100–107.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    W. Caskel, Der Felsendom und die Wallfahrt nach Jerusalem (Cologne, 1963).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 18.
    Priscilla Soucek, ‘The Temple of Solomon in Islamic Legend and Art’, in Joseph Gutmann, ed., The Temple of Solomon (Missoula, 1976); Heribert Busse, ‘The Sanctity of Jerusalem in Islam’, Judaism 17 (1968). R. Krautheimer, ‘The iconography of Medieval Architecture’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    See the suggestive recent books by F. E. Peters, Jerusalem (Princeton, 1985) and Jerusalem and Mecca (New York, 1986).Google Scholar

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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