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According to the author, the elements of architecture found within the Dome, such as the interior double colonnades and the wooden dome are echoed in the Cathedral.
Gray concedes that one might argue for the Islamic nature of the mosaic decorations. However, even this element adheres more to the Hellenistic tradition before the Islamic synthesis than to Islam itself. Elements of Islam that are included are the fact that there is no representation of men or animals in the mosaic, as well as the syncretic vocabulary.
Myriam Rosen-Ayalon more closely examines both the iconography and the concomitant purpose of creating the Dome of the Rock. She appears to agree with Gray, that a number of non-Islam influences were at work when the Dome was created. More specifically, she addresses the interaction of the mosaic images with the text inscriptions of the Dome. In this way, the author attempts to find the meanings and purposes behind the art of the Dome. In this attempt, the author cites the work of Oleg Grabar, who examined the mosaic and inscriptions during the 1950s. Specifically, Rosen-Ayalon cites Grabar as focusing his study on the mosaic within the inner vace of the intermediate octagon. At this location, the depiction of jewelry is notable. This includes pieces such as bracelets, pendants, necklaces, crowns and tiaras. This substantiates the pre-Islamic traditions as influencing the artwork. Specifically, Byzantine art relates to material riches, which appears to be substantiated by the golden background.
Rosen-Ayalon speculates on the meaning of the variety of jewelry, citing Grabar's theory that the crowns represent vanquished kings obliged to succumb to Islam. She speculates further on the meaning of the rest of the jewelry, but does not offer much beyond an indication that the answers to her questions are largely unknown.
The author connects a group of winged motifs on the mosaic with the crowns, in that it symbolically originates from the Sasanian tradition. In this tradition, wings are used to symbolize crowns. When seen in this light, it makes sense that the crown motif is connected with the wings, as well as the possibility of Grabar's interpretation; the crowns symbolize kings succumbing to Islam. When however considered in terms of the Koran and its description of the Prophet on the back of a winged animal, the winged motif on the dome can also take this interpretive function. The winged creatures in the Koran offer transport for the Prophet and symbolize a variety of religious values. In their connection with the majesty of the crowns and jewelry in the rest of the mosaic, an Islamic interpretation of the mosaic could then also relate to the majesty of the Prophet above all else.
In addition, each of the six series of mosaics display a predominantly floral motif, and specifically indicate connections with the Tree of Life. Although the original external motifs have disappeared, historians indicate that they also adhere to the themes displayed by the art on the inside. To further explicate this, the author cites Felix Fabri, who viewed the Dome from a distance during 1483. He noted palm trees, olive trees, and angels. The imagery of angels relate closely to the wing motif mentioned above.
Another interesting interpretation of the floral and wing motifs is its indication of paradise. These motifs can be said to collaborate with the jewelry and gold to create an ideal of treasures that may be found in the afterlife. Rosen-Ayalon also mentions that these symbols are universally related to the concept of the glorious afterlife not only in Islam, but in other religions such as Christianity as well.
In attempting to find the meaning behind the construction of the Dome, one could take into account the mosaic art, as well as the majesty of the building itself. On the one hand, one could interpret it as one of the most significant structures of the Muslim world, where the faithful can come to worship, be inspired, and strengthen their faith. In this, the interpretation of the mosaic and of the structure itself relates directly to the emotional and spiritual lives of the onlookers. In addition, even non-Muslims can visit the site and enjoy the majesty of the structure and its decoration. Here one could almost say that the Dome is universally significant to the faithful of all religions, in its depiction of general afterlife-related symbolism inspires and infuses the onlooker with hope and awe.
In conclusion, I do not believe that the Dome can be interpreted without some emotional response. The majesty of the structure itself, along with the significance of its artistic decoration surpasses the boundaries of culture. Indeed, the very fact of its intercultural influence indicates the Dome's significance to a widely intercultural audience.
Associates for Scriptural Knowledge. The Secret key to the Dome of the Rock. Oct 1, 1999. http://www.askelm.com/temple/t991001.htm
Ettinghausen, Richard and Grabar, Oleg. Extract from the Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250 (pp. 28-34). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994. http://www.thehope.org/domerock.htm
Garaudy, Roger. The Dome of the Rock. American Muslim Council, 1997. http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/domerock.htm
Gray, Martin. Places of Peace and Power: Jarusalem, Israel. 1983-2006. http://www.sacredsites.com/middle_east/israel/jerusalem.html
Hayut-Ma'n, Yitzhak. Invetsigation of the Dome of the Rock. 2002. http://www.thehope.org/domeinvs.htm
Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. Exerpts from the Early Islamic Monuments of al-Haram Al-Sharif. The Dome of the Rock. Hebrew University, 1989. http://www.temple4jerusalem.co.uk/HTML/dome.htm
Saifullah, MSM and Choniem, Muhammad. Did 'abd al-Malik Build the Dome of the Rock to Divert the Hajj from Makkah? Islamic Awareness, 2001. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Dome_Of_The_Rock/hajjdome.html[continue]
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