The golden dome which has come to symbolize Jerusalem’s famous skyline is the Dome of the Rock – a shrine on the Temple Mount that is located in the Old City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was completed in 691 CE and built on the site of the Roman Jupiter CapitonlinusTemple. The Roman Temple, in turn, was built on the ruins of the Second Jewish Temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The shrine was not intended to be a mosque; instead the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik wanted to build an ornate and beautiful Muslim building that could compete with the majestic Christian churches in the city. The dome is built over a sacred stone, where it is believed that the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from, while the Jews believe that the rock was the place where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The architectural elements of the Dome of the Rock are superb, and its dimensions relate to the center circle that surrounds the stone. The original dome was made out of gold, but was later replaced with copper and aluminum; although today it is covered with gold leaf. The half-moon decoration that sits atop the dome is a traditional Islam symbol. Multicolored Turkish tiles adorn the exterior of the shrine. The interior is an elaborate work of art, featuring arched walls, lush red carpeting, stunning floral decorations in the cupola and mosaics that feature representations of vegetation.