Dome of the Rock: Jeruselam

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1 Jake Kelly 4/27/2012 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 egion, 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 of art. The design, structure, and art are all Islamic art forms intended to show the dominance of the new group over the people who previously dominated the area. “The Arabs referred to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by a different name, using a pun in Arabic. In Christian tradition the church is widely known as the Church of the Resurrection-al-Qiyama in Arabic.
The Arabs changed its name to al-Qamama- church of the Dung. ”()(figure 2). Disrespect to the Christian faith was the intent of this name changing, but other reasons lie below the surface. The new ruling Islamic group changed the name almost as propaganda for the people to see this beautiful church as below the new Islamic architecture. This tactic has been used time and time again throughout art history to draw attention and show dominance of the new ruling religion or group. With all this negativity towards anything Christian, the Dome of the Rock would think to have no such influence.
The golden dome is the exact same inner dimensions as the Sepulchre Church and the octagonal structure was first seen in Christian architecture. With the disagreement, the Muslim builders could not deny the Christian building 4 techniques and layout when creating the Dome of the Rock. The structure may be very similar, but that is not what sets it apart from Christian architecture. The art work incorporated with the building tells an Islamic story and shows the shift from tradition Christian art to a completely different style used by the creators. A major shift also occurs with the subject matter incorporated the art.
The Christians used many statues and paintings in their religious locations, but the new Islamic group now only used things like nature and calligraphy in all there art. What is seen on the outside of the structure, on the mosaics inside, and the calligraphy around the arcades tell a Muslim story that was meant to show an end to the Christian rule of the area. “It rises atop a tall cylinder of some 98 feet (30m) over the platform. Constructed of wood, it is not gilded but covered with a special alloy containing gold that provides its vaguely golden tone.
The cupola is supported by a circular arcade of four piers and sixteen columns flanked by two ambulatories surrounds the cylinder and holds tight, as in a ring. The ambulatories together are 46 feet (14m) deep, and give the whole building a diameter of some 157 feet (48m). It rises to only 36 feet (11m) inside and 43 feet (13m) on the outside, strengthening the impact of the central cylinder with cupola. ” () The structure of the Dome of the Rock was not huge like many other Islamic religious structures.
Compared with the Mosques and other Islamic holy sites studied in art history, this is very small and shaped different, but still keeps the normal Islamic theme of the time. Islamic holy sites are usually gigantic elaborate buildings on the outside as well as the in, but this is where the Dome is different. The only real elaborate piece to the outside is the golden dome that can be noticed and recognized from far distances. This was a structure made to look like structurally like the existing Christian holy sites. The similarity between structures was intended 5 ot to mimic, but to show that their religion was the truth, through the Islamic art work and calligraphy. The least elaborate section of the building is the outside and has calligraphy that was once with Islamic based mosaics. The gold dome with a plain building is a strategic move that give the structure a very unique quality. The inside of the Dome of the Rock may be more important than the dome itself and what it stood for. There are documents inside the building telling what the calligraphy inside the building can be translated to. This calligraphy is from the Koran and is on the top of the inner and outer octagonal arcades (figure 3).
The calligraphy, “These passages make three points: (1) God is one; He cannot be born or give birth, a basic Muslim position in relationship to the Christians; (2) God’s messenger is Muhammad, who was brought the divine message to mankind and (3) Jesus, the son of Mary, is also a messenger who should be honored and praised because of his virtuous life and because he carried some of the signs of the divine relationship to man. ” () The Muslims and Christians are two religions that have many simililarites, but disagree with who was the prophet and if Jesus was the son of god or just a messenger.
As stated earlier, these differences have caused controversy between the two groups, which are meant to be brought out by the Qur’anic versus. These messages of one God, Muhammad as the prophet, and Jesus only being a messenger were inserted in the inside art work to set in stone what religion now controlled this area. They wanted to show who now had the power of the area and wanted it to be clear through the art work and calligraphy found on the inner and outer arcades. During the time of the construction, no human forms were used in 6 the art work.
This is a reason calligraphy can be seen throughout this Muslim based piece of architecture. Calligraphy is a very important piece to almost and Islamic work and always tells a religious story from the Koran or other religious works. To take this even further, the Islamic people may have been trying to flex their chest a little more by staying away from any type of Christian art forms. Whatever the intent was, the calligraphy on the inner and outer arcades comes directly out of the Koran and puts to rest the old Christian ways of the area.
To go along with the Islamic calligraphy on the inside of the Dome of the Rock, the incorporation of nature mosaics shows the shift in art work of the area. The patrons and builders of this great building obvisously wanted nothing to do with the art work of the Christians, and is the reason no blending of art happened between the two at this time. When the Christians dominated the area, portraiture was very popular as well as Christian statues and stained glass portraying holy people was not uncommon. During the time period when the Muslims conquered the Christians, human images were not allowed to be subject matter in and Islamic art.
The Islamic people wanted to get rid of the Christian art work that went against their faith and first started with the Dome of the Rock. One similarity between the artwork of these two groups could be the use of glass, but they each used glass in different ways. Instead of stain glass mosaics of people, the Muslim builder used small pieces of glass called tesserae to create much of the mosaics that line the walls of the Dome of the Rock. This took time, but when one sees the inside of this great building, the time taken by these artists to do the mosaics was well worth it. 7 It is easy to enumerate the components: acanthus bowls of several different shapes; scrolls made of calices fitted into one another, occasionally simplified into a single ribbon with jewels and adaptable to almost any space; supporting rods, usually artificial cominations of repeated floral or ornamental elements; trees, among which palm trees can be recognized, and tufts of grass; garlands and single leaves which, especially on the soffits, serve as background for fruits; berries, fruits, and vegetables, among which pomergranets, olives, cherries, dates, grapes, and several kinds of cucumbers can be recognized; full or empty cornucopias of many different forms; vases shells; crescents and stars; an astounding array of insignia associated with royal power, such as crowns or tiaras, and other jewelry of many kinds with no royal association; pairs of wings; and artificial combinations of several of these elements to create imaginative and fantastic compositions” () (figure 4). This quote from a book written by Oleg Grabar tells the type of art work found in and around the dome of the rock. There are absolutely no human forms in any of this art work and is not done this way solely because this was Islamic law. The creators wanted to put a completely Muslim piece of architecture in the Jerusalem skyline to let the people of the city and visitors that this was now an Islamic dominated area. …reasons for the building of this monument include: (1) the portrayal of the triumph of Islam, the Final Revelation, based off the opulent surface decoration throughout the building, especially the jewel-studded mosaics, precious stones, etc. , and the calligraphy of specific Qur’anic versus symbolizing holiness, wealth, and power, and (2) the commemoration of the location of the Prophet Muhammad’s ‘Night Journey’, especially of the ‘rock’ itself on top of which, according to later traditions, the Prophet stood before being led by angel Gabriel to meet God in the second part of the ‘Night Journey’ - the Miraj. ” () Jerusalem has always been an area of religious struggle, because of its location and importance to an abundance of religions. There were Jewish strongholds as well as Christians ruling this area way before the Islamic people came into power.
The struggle for power has turned the 8 area into something so sought after, that when they gained control, triumph throughout the Islamic faith began. Constructing a great piece of architecture is a tactic used time in time again throughout history to mark a change in time, and these people were trying to do just that. This building was meant to be on top of the hill looking down over the city, to maybe instill pride in people of the area, but much more than the location is put into its creation. The subject matter of the art is that of Islamic wealth and power. These refrences paint the picture of what these new people to the area were all about.
They had power, backed by the Islamic law, and enough money to build pieces of architecture like this all over the area. These rulers and wealthy citizens were very good patrons to the arts and is seen through the construction and choices of art work on the inside of the structure. Patrons willing to spend vast amounts of money on art and architecture can be seen throughout the Muslim history. To take this further, the subject matter and location of the building were not the only reasons for its construction. In the first part of the night journey, Prophet Muhammad travelled all the way to Jerusalem, where he met up the angel Gabriel on the rock contained inside the Dome of the Rock. (figure 5). They then travelled to heaven, hell, and to meet God.
The Islamic people take this story, as well as many other stories, very seriously and truthfully believe events like this once occurred upon this rock. This type of religious belief system has been seen around the world for centuries, and anything from something in nature or the world and turn into a relic overnight. Patrons, as well as builders did not just pick this area because it over looked the city of Jerusalem, they wanted to use the rock as a piece of art and almost a relic to be worshipped while inside the structure. Christian churches always have some type of relic or piece of art inside the church that can be 9 the center of worship. Many times a priest or holy person will kiss this relic that is usually contained inside the alter of a Christian church.
People can walk into the Dome of the Rock and be able to relate a story to the rock and Muhammad much like Christians can with the relics in there churches. This may not be your typical art object or relic used in a church, but because its sacred history this giant rock is the center piece of this beautiful piece of art. The exterior of the Dome of the Rock is almost like night and day when you relate it to the elaborate mosaics and arcades of the interior chamber. This is a building that was made to be seen from far away as someone journeyed into the city. “.. the Dome of the Rock operates as a magnetic entity from afar and breaks down into partial and repetitive elements as one draws near it. () As you approach the city of Jerusalem, towering over the skyline is this magnificent golden dome that appears to be attached to an elaborate building. When one keeps travelling and gets closer to the actual building itself, the gold domed building that once looked elaborate is now very plain. “What distinguishes the Dome of the Rock, however is that the remote impact is the same wherever one becomes aware of its presence, and nowhere does perception of the building require or invite entry, as do, for instance, the funnellike facades of Gothic cathedrals. ” () The evidence is really weak on why exactly this non elaborate technique was used on the exterior part of the building and seems very weird of Muslim architecture and art.
Usually the entire structure of a holy location would be covered with art to almost draw in the 10 thousands of people a day to pray. Because it was created to be seen far away and dominate the Jerusalem skyline, they did not elaborately create the outside of the structure to be similar to the inside, but instead used a golden dome to draw people in. With this contrast brings curiosity and could have easily been a motive during construction. Even though the outside, bottom section of the building, is very bland when you compare it to the golden dome or the elaborate tesserae mosaics of the interior, many people still put rank it as one of the most beautiful in the world today.
The symmetrical technique, octagonal shape, and the art used in the creation of the Dome of the Rock were before their time and are still thought highly of today. With all the Islamic influence as well as the incorporation of some Christian techniques, one would think there was no more room for outside influence. “Byzantine, Persian, and Arab design and architecture are blended in it to create a magnificent whole. The blending of the three types of art is not surprising for all three people shared in the constrction. ”() With all these different influences present during construction, no wonder many attribute this piece of architecture with beauty and uniqueness. The mosque of the rock is extrodinary and beautiful. I have visited many places and beautiful buildings in India, Europe, and other parts of the world, and as far as I can remember. I have not seen as magnificent of a building as the Dome of the rock. The symmetry and the gorgeous blending of colors I have not seen in any other building. ” (5) Many people around the world share this same opinion of the incredible building. Everything that went into its construction, make it one of the most unique places to visit in the entire world. 11 The Dome of The Rock in Jerusalem was a building constructed by a group of people that were new to an area and wanted to make a point.
These were people of the book, with lives that revolved around following the readings found in the Koran. These religious ideas are seen throughout the entire building. Everything from calligraphy, mosaics, and relics are all geared towards Islamic law and pleasing God or Alah in the Islamic faith. This religious influence was not meant to be just looked at and admired by the Muslim people who now had power of the region. The creators and patrons wanted to give the people a building that towered and naturally looked down upon the Christian architecture that was already there. This group even changed the name of a great Christian church of the region to show who now was in control.
The Muslim people of this time and place used Islamic art and architecture in the building of the Dome of the Rock to show there dominance over the group who recently inhabited the region. Figure 1 12 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 13 Figure 5 Bibliography Aref, Aref El. A Brief Guide to The Dome of the Rock and Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Jerusalem: Supreme AWQAF Council, 1959. Print. Bloom, Jonathan M. Early Islamic Art and Architecture. Aldershot [u. a. : Ashgate Variorum, 2002. Print. Grabar, Oleg. The Dome of the Rock. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2006. Print. Nuseibeh, Said, and Oleg Grabar. The Dome of the Rock. New York: Rizzoli, 1996. Print.
Shanks, Hershel, and Hershel Shanks. Jerusalem's Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print. I watched a National Geography Video I ordered through the library -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Shanks, Hershel. Jerusalem's Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print. [ 2 ]. Shanks, Hershel. Jerusalem's Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print. [ 3 ]. Nuseibeh, Said, and Oleg Grabar. The Dome of the Rock. New York: Rizzoli, 1996. Print [ 4 ]. Nuseibeh, Said, and Oleg Grabar. The Dome of the Rock. New York: Rizzoli, 1996. Print [ 5 ]. Grabar, Oleg.
The Umayyad Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2002. Pg. 224 [ 6 ]. M. Anwarul Islam and Zavid F. Al-hammad. The Dome of the Rock: Origin of its Octagonal Plan. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. wittenberg. edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? sid=b061e92d-24d2-41ec-9e4c-df5ed7fce55d%40sessionmgr15=4=11 [ 7 ]. Shanks, Hershel. Jerusalem's Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print. [ 8 ]. Shanks, Hershel. Jerusalem's Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print. [ 9 ]. Aref, El Aref. A Brief Guide to The Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem: The Supreme Awqaf Council. 1959.

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