Richard Nowitz

Golden, gleaming, the Dome of the Rock has dominated Jerusalem’s panorama for 13 centuries. The Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (685–705) built this Islamic temple over a protruding rock face (see photo of Templum Domini and aerial photo of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), called es-Sakhra in Arabic, on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (see plan). For Muslims as for Jews, this was where the patriarch Abraham had prepared to sacrifice his son (Ishmael in Muslim tradition, Isaac according to the Hebrew Bible) and where King Solomon had built the First Temple.

When Christian Crusaders took control of Jerusalem in 1099, they learned that the Dome of the Rock occupied the site of the biblical Temple. For the Crusaders, the site immediately became Christendom’s holiest ground—surpassing even the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (whose twin domes are visible in this photo just to the right of the Dome of the Rock’s glowing cupola). Thus they renamed the Dome of the Rock the Templum Domini (Temple of the Lord) and converted it into a Christian shrine, which celebrates the site where heaven and earth meet.