Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

Visit to the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque


Jerusalem, 13 October, 2016 Vladimir Plasek, sdb

In line with the “Islam focus” of STS this academic year, which aims to grow in our understanding of Islamic faith, culture and architecture, we visited the third most sacred place of Islam, called in Arabic Haram al-Sharif meaning “the Noble sanctuary”. The Waqf appointed guides gave us a guided tour, which allowed us a special entry into both the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

The prophet Muhammad died in 632 and the Muslims believe that he ascended into heaven from the Al Aqsa compound. In 638 Omar began with building a small mosque in the Temple Mount and in 685 caliph Abd el Malik entrusted to Byzantine Christians to build the Dome of Rock. In the 8th century also the construction of Al-Aqsa started. Its characteristic golden roof was gilded by Suleiman II in 1517, and reconstructed by Jordanian king Hussein. At present, the area of the Temple Mount covers 1/6 of the whole Old City Jerusalem, including two mosques, theological school, museum, different schools, four minarets, fountains, staircases, gates, galleries and parks.

The Dome of Rock:
It is one of the oldest Umayyad’s buildings with Persian and Byzantine architectonic elements, characterized by octagonal shape with strict geometric rules. Muslims believe that the final judgment will be here. The interior is full of mosaics and Persian carpets, various in colors and shapes well- combined in a spiritual harmony. Two colonnades around the rock, creating three circle areas symbolize the world with three basic elements: the earth, water and air. There is a hole in the rock, which connect it with the cave called also the well of souls.

Al-Aqsa mosque: It belongs to the oldest Muslim monuments in the world. The “Al-Aqsa” or “remote” means the furthest place that Muhammad reached during his night ride on the horse from Mecca. The Crusaders made here the residence of the crusader’s king and the Templars established here the residence of Grandmaster, therefore their name is derived from the word “Temple”. Al-Aqsa at present is used for common prayers, but only men can enter, women stay in the Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa is considered as the ideological, religious, cultural and educative center of the Muslim world. The mosque has seven naves and the fa├žade is from 13th century. Inside one can see the prayer niche mihrab, the throne of imam and the window preserved from the crusader’s period.

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