One Of The Gates.
Mosque Of Omar (Interior).
The principal building in this great enclosure is the Dome of the Rock, popularly known as the Mosque of Omar. It is a beautiful and graceful structure, embellishing and dignifying the entire city. Unlike most mosques, there rise from it no tapering minarets, with exquisitely chiseled balconies, where the muezzin calls to prayer. Its elegantly modeled dome is deemed sufficient; and this, indeed, though ninety - six feet in height, is so extremely light and buoyant in appearance, that it would not surprise the traveler much to see it rise and float away toward Heaven, as Mohammed himself is said to have done from this very spot. The mosque itself is in the form of a richly decorated octagon. The lower half of the walls is covered with white marble, - the upper part is an expanse of porcelain tiles, whose colors blend in harmonious though intricate designs. Around them also, like a sculptured frieze of blue and white enameled tiles, are interwoven passages from the Koran.
The Dome Of The Rock.
The theology of the builders of this edifice cannot be misunderstood, for among various verses from the Moslem Scriptures here inscribed, are these: "The Messiah, Jesus, was the son of Mary and Joseph. He was also the ambassador of God. Believe in God and His ambassador, but do not say that God is three. For God is one, and cannot have a son. Pray then to God alone: - That is the only way." Moreover, not content with the religious teachings carved upon the walls, a Moslem priest, from a beautiful marble pulpit in this courtyard, every Friday proclaims to the faithful the significance and sanctity of all around them.
Interior Of Mosque.
A Moslem Sheik.
Having exchanged our shoes for slippers, according to the Moslem requirements, lest we should defile this consecrated area, we entered, first, a little gem of architecture, which we supposed to be one of the fountains for ablution always found in the vicinity of mosques. It is, however, an antechamber where the faithful pray before they pass within the mosque itself. This graceful pavilion, the walls of which are all inlaid with exquisite mosaic, bears the name of "David's Judgment Hall," for the Moslems claim that King David formerly hung a chain here as a test of men's veracity. All truthful witnesses could touch it without ill effects; but if a liar handled it, a link fell off at once, - one link for every lie. At this rate it is not surprising that the chain speedily lost its links. They long since disappeared.
The Marble Pulpit.
From this anteroom for prayer, we advanced to and entered the mosque itself. Photography here cannot avail us much. An exceedingly "dim religious light " pervades the sacred edifice. For several minutes we could hardly distinguish our surroundings, but presently perceived that we were standing on a marble pavement partly covered with straw matting. We seemed to be in the foyer of an amphitheatre. On either side of us was a curving wall, upheld by marble columns. Occasionally a ray of light, through stained glass windows near the roof, revealed some glittering mosaics or a sculptured capital. "Where did these columns come from?" we inquired. "Some of them, doubtless, are relics of the various temples reared here by the Hebrews and their Roman conquerors." was the reply.
We slowly made our way along the serpentine corridor, and gradually understood the singular construction of the edifice. It is built in two concentric circles; the outer wall of the structure being one, and a corresponding circular screen the other; while, in the centre, just beneath the mighty dome, is - what? A precious shrine? By no means. Some noble work of art? Not at all. What then? A bare, rough rock, fifty-six feet in length and forty feet in breadth, without a particle of decoration on its surface.