Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012
Originally constructed between 688 and 692 under the rule of Abd al-Malik, whom Yitzchak introduced in the previous post, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most emblematic architectural landmarks in the history of Islamic culture. On the one hand, the monument carries a unique and unifying significance for Islamic religious communities over broad temporal and geographic scopes; on the other hand, it reflects the far-reaching extent of intercultural contacts and dialogues that have shaped such Islamic communities over time, on a local level.
Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012
In the late nineteenth century, French soldiers stationed at the town of Hammam Lif—the ancient city of Naro in southern Tunisia—accidentally rediscovered an ancient structure. The building's layout and floor mosaics were so in line with regional conventions that it was at first thought to have been a church. However, the Latin inscription in the center of the mosaic floor, which identifies the building as "Sancta Sinagoga" and is flanked by menorahs on either side, revealed the site to be a synagogue.
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Look closely at the carved stonework from the facade of Qasr al-Mshatta, and you will spot a world of griffins, peacocks, lions, and pheasants hiding in the shade of delicately rendered grape leafs. The refinement of the representations here has captivated scholars and public alike for a century, ever since it arrived in Berlin as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Kaiser Wilhelm I shortly before World War I.
Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
In an address to the citizens of Damascus, the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715) proclaimed: "Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you a marked superiority over the rest of the world: your climate, your water, your fruits, and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth: this mosque."
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Few surviving Umayyad palaces present as much evidence for the types of decoration popular among the period's elite as does Khirbat al-Mafjar, a desert qusur, or fortified palace complex.
Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Umayyad qusur, or desert "palaces," are known for their variety of architectural styles and decoration. One example, Qusayr 'Amra, is well known on both counts.
Posted: Monday, April 9, 2012
Saint Catherine's Monastery—officially "Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai"—located in the Sinai Peninsula, is one of the oldest functioning Christian monasteries. Constructed in the sixth century under the orders of Justinian I (r. 527–565), it was built in the spot where, according to Christian belief, the angels brought the body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria after her execution.
Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012
Hagia Sophia is the Orthodox Patriarchal church located in the former Byzantine capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). It was originally built in 360 a.d. during the reign of Constantius II, but was destroyed during a period of riots at he beginning of the fifth century. A second basilica with a wooden roof was constructed under the orders of Theodosius II to replace the destroyed structure, but it, too, was destroyed during the Nika Revolt in 532 a.d.
Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
One of the mosaics on view in the exhibition comes from the city of Gerasa (present-day Jerash, Jordan). Gerasa was an architecturally dense city founded during the second century B.C. Under Roman rule it included two theaters, two bath houses, a nymphaeum (public fountain), and a macellum (meat market).1 Although its prosperity diminished over time, by the third century A.D. the city had regained some of its wealth and reinstituted massive building campaigns.
Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Travelers from Cairo to Upper Egypt inevitably pass through the cities Bawit and Sohag. These cities, which are not on most itineraries, do not house many pharaonic antiquities (aside from the great Temple of Siti I, in Sohag), but they do boast fascinating late antique monuments.