Garo Nalbandian

The center of the world was fixed on medieval maps at as-Sahra, the protruding limestone bedrock enshrined within the Dome of the Rock. King David bought this rock, when it was a threshing floor, from Araunah the Jebusite “to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague [might] be withdrawn from the people” (2 Samuel 24:21).

The Crusaders, who converted the Moslem edifice into a church known as the Temple of the Lord, would shave off slivers of the natural rock and sell them as souvenirs to pilgrims hungering for relics. An unidentified Crusader king, in a conservative spirit, had the rock covered with marble to prevent further damage, but the Moslem conqueror Saladin ordered the marble removed, and so the rock has remained exposed ever since. Beyond the rocky surface, we see a portion of an arched marble colonnade. Not clearly visible here, an 18-inch-wide shaft penetrates the rock to the cave below.