Noble Sanctuary:
The Dome of the Rock

The Noble Sanctuary, better known as the Dome of the Rock, is probably Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark. Its golden dome, at the center of the Temple Mount, dominates the landscape.

The building is a shrine – not a mosque – and is the oldest Islamic building still in existence. In a bid to rival the other two religions that were already well-established in Jerusalem, the Muslims, who had conquered Jerusalem in 637, build the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Second Temple, using a design meant to rival the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Noble Sanctuary: The Dome of the Rock

Photo by David Braun, under a CC by sa 3.0 license

This was the first use of a dome in Muslim architecture, although domes are characteristic of Byzantine Christian architecture, and its measurements are virtually identical to those of the Holy Sepulcher.

The original dome of the Noble Sanctuary was replaced many times, most recently in 1994. It was originally plated with molten golden coins that had been donated to fund the building. Suleiman the Magnificent renovated the exterior of the building in the 16th century, contributing the beautiful tiles. In 1960, the it was re-plated with a bronze-aluminum alloy, and the dome was replaced altogether in 1994. In 1998, the dome was once again covered in gold, courtesy of King Hussein of Jordan. The gold-plate covering is .0023 mm thick, weighs 80 kg and cost 15 million dollars. It was specially treated to mute the gold's brilliance, so that the dome wouldn't blind people.

Inside the building, the walls are decorated with verses from Quran, many of which specifically disparage Christianity.

In the 12th century, the Noble Sanctuary became a Crusader church. It reverted to its role as a Muslim shrine in 1187, when Saladin conquered Jerusalem.

What does this shrine house that is so special? A rock.

Noble Sanctuary - Foundation Stone

The Foundation Stone, to be precise. Jewish tradition states that it was from this stone - the exposed bedrock of Mount Moriah – that the world was formed, and at this spot that Abraham bound his son Isaac as a sacrifice. It is also widely believed to have been the center of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and thus the most sacred place on earth.

Muslims claim Muhammad ascended to Heaven from this stone. The Quran describes a night journey in which Muhammad traveled "to the temple that is most remote," from where he ascended to Heaven for Divine consultations. While the Quran never mentions Jerusalem, Islamic tradition has come to associate it with this nocturnal journey.

Beneath the stone lies a cave and a well, known as the Well of Souls.

Noble Sanctuary: the Dome of the Rock

Hours: Open to non-Muslims Sun - Thurs 7:00 to 11:00, 13:30 to 14:30.

Non-Muslims are only allowed access to the Temple Mount from the ramp to the right of the Western Wall, and are not allowed in the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aksa Mosque. Non-Muslims are also not allowed to pray, not even silently, anywhere on the Temple Mount.

Modest dress required. Bring your passport and be prepared for strict security measures.

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