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The Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock

Oleg Grabar

ISBN 9780674023130

Publication date: 10/30/2006

The Dome of the Rock, the beautiful Muslim shrine in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, was fully restored to its original state in the last half-century. Thus, this structure, sited on the third holiest spot on earth for Muslims, is at once a product of the seventh century and almost entirely the work of our own times--a paradox in keeping with the complexities and contradictions of history and religion, architecture and ideology that define this site.

This book tells the story of the Dome of the Rock, from the first fateful decades of its creation--on the esplanade built in the fourth decade B.C.E. for the Second Jewish Temple--to its engulfment in the clashes of the Crusades and the short-lived Christianization of all of Jerusalem, to its modern acquisition of different and potent meanings for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures.

Oleg Grabar's presentation combines what we know of the building with the views of past observers and with the broader historical, cultural, and aesthetic implications of the monument. Primarily it is as a work of art that the Dome of the Rock stands out from these pages, understood for the quality that allows it to transcend the constrictions of period and perhaps even those of faith and culture. Finally, Grabar grapples with the question this monumental work of art so eloquently poses: whether the pious requirements of a specific community can be reconciled with universal aesthetic values.


  • This is a little gem. The Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine in Jerusalem, might serve as an emblem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this book Oleg Grabar, a Princeton University expert on Islamic art, considers the building first and foremost as an artistic masterpiece...Grabar points to some major themes with which the Dome has been associated: commemoration of the Creation and the expectation of the Creator's return to Earth, the travels and Ascension to heaven of the Prophet Muhammad, the triumph over Christians and Jews in the holy city of Jerusalem, and the anticipation of Paradise...Grabar outlines a case for considering the Dome of the Rock as a valuable part of the global artistic heritage of all humanity, aside from its sacred functions. It forms part of the third most holy site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and entry is barred to non-Muslims. But this learned virtual tour of the Dome of the Rock is accessible to all of us.

    —Andrew Bonnell, Courier Mail


  • Oleg Grabar was Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • Belknap Press