The skyline of Jerusalem is dominated by a Muslim shrine called Qubbat As-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock in Arabic.
Built between 685 and 691 C.E., this shrine is the first piece of Islamic architecture sponsored by a Muslim ruler that was created as a work of art.
Built to transcend its function by the quality of its forms and expression, the Dome is still standing in much of its original shape and with a good portion of its original decoration.
Its wooden gilt dome, which is approximately 20 meters in diameter, rises to a height of some 30 meters above the surrounding stone-paved platform.
It is supported by a circular arcade of four piers and twelve columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of eight piers and sixteen columns, which help support the dome.
The outer wall repeats this octagon, each of the eight sides being about 18 meters wide and 8 meters high. Both the dome and the exterior walls contain many windows.
Extensive decoration from a variety of periods, including mosaics, painted wood, marble, multi-colored tiles, carpets, and carved stone, covers most of the exterior and interior of the building.
Many of the 45,000 blue and gold exterior tiles were installed under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s.
Inside, 1,280 square meters of elaborate mosaics cover the walls that enshrine the mystical rock under the dome.
The intricate patterns and geometric shapes of the mosaics replace figurative art since, according to Muslim belief, it would be impossible to represent Allah in any figurative form.
Instead, the shrine conveys its own message through color and shape. In Islamic art, blue, the color of the sky, suggests infinity, while gold represents the color of the knowledge of God.
The shape of the dome itself is a powerful symbol of the soaring ascent to heaven, its circle representing the wholeness and balance essential to the Muslim faith.