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The Dome of the Rock and its Umayyad Mosaic Inscriptions

Marcus Milwright


A new interpretation of the Dome of the Rock based on an analysis of its inscriptions

Located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock was constructed at the end of the seventh century by order of caliph ‘Abd al-Malik. This seminal structure has been much studied but no definitive interpretation yet exists of the meanings conveyed by the Dome at the time of its completion. The recovery of meaning is complicated by the paucity of primary written sources relating to the construction phases of the building and the motivations of its patron. This book concentrates on the most important surviving primary text, the long mosaic inscription running around the interior. Comprising a dedication and date (72/691-92) and material of a religious nature, the mosaic inscription provides vital evidence for the reconstruction of the meanings and functions of the Dome of the Rock. The detailed study of the mosaics helps to place them in the context of Late Antique monumental writing, particularly in Greek. The book makes use of contemporary Islamic coins, graffiti, and other inscribed objects in order to examine the Dome of the Rock in the relation to the ideological concerns of the Umayyad elite during and after the second Civil War.

Key Features

  • Close examination of the Umayyad inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock
  • Discusses the Late Antique heritage of the Dome of the Rock
  • Places the Dome in the political and cultural historical context of the 680s and 690s
  • Lavishly illustrated, including an accurate drawing of the complete mosaic inscription running around the outer and inner faces of the octagonal arcade


Notes for the Reader
Figure Captions
Chapter 1. The Setting of the Dome of the Rock
Chapter 2. Initial Description of the Mosaic Inscriptions
Chapter 3. Mosaic Scripts in Late Antiquity
Chapter 4. Visual Sources for the Mosaic Script of the Dome of the Rock
Chapter 5. Focus on Details
Chapter 6. Proposing a Sequence
Chapter 7. Symbolic Dimensions of Inscriptions in Late Antiquity and Early Islam
Chapter 8. The Inscriptions of the Dome of the Rock in their Historical Context

About the Author

Marcus Milwright is Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology in the Department of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Victoria, B.C., Canada. He is the author of The Fortress of the Raven: Karak in the Middle Islamic Period (2008), An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology (EUP, 2010) and The Dome of the Rock and it Umayyad Mosaic Inscriptions (EUP, 2016).


'A vital contribution to the field.'

- A. Culter, Pennsylvania State University , Choice
'Milwright’s close and careful study of these inscriptions is an important contribution to a key period in Muslim history for which written sources are rare.'
- John Tolan, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations

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