Monday, January 14, 2013

Mosque of Omar

In the Muristan area of the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, just opposite the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,  you will find the Mosque of Omar.

Its distinctive square minaret, 15 meters tall, was built in the 1460s.
The minaret was  renovated by Ottoman sultan Abdulmecid I in the mid 19th century.

(All photos can be much enlarged, to see, for instance, the big loudspeakers atop the minaret for the call to prayer.)

The mosque was built in 1193.
As you can read on the beautiful gate, it is "For Prayers Only," meaning non-Muslims may not enter.

It is a very tight corner in the narrow lanes of the Old City and I could not back up enough to capture the gate in one shot.

Sacred Destinations explains why the Mosque of Omar was built:
After a brief and bloodless seige, Muslims seized control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in February 638. Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab accepted the city's surrender from Patriarch Sophronius in person.

Omar was shown the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre and offered a place to pray in it, but he refused. He knew that if he prayed in the church, it would set a precedent that would lead to the building's transformation into a mosque. He instead prayed on the steps outside, allowing the church to remain a Christian holy place.

The Omar Mosque was built near the site of these events in 1193 by Saladin's son Aphdal Ali.

This means that we have Caliph Omar to thank, because his actions after his takeover of Jerusalem ensured that the Holy Sepulchre would remain open to Christian worship.

UPDATE:   In 1172 the Crusaders added a beautiful bell tower, 29 meters high (!), to the Holy Sepulchre.
After Saladin’s arrival in 1187, the 18 bells that had chimed the hours and announced the services were melted down and not replaced until the 19th century, when the current ones were installed.
An earthquake in 1545 caused a collapse of the upper parts of the bell tower, but the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem refused to authorize its reconstruction.
The truncated bell tower has been dwarfed ever since by the 15-meter minaret of the adjacent Mosque of Omar.
P.S. Jerusalem had a rare snowfall!  If you haven't seen my posts of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday you are welcome to enjoy snow pictures there.
(Linking to Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors and to OurWorld Tuesday.)


Gary said...

Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Dianne said...

Wonderful glimpses from your beautiful city with history around every corner.
Hoping your week goes well Dina.

eileeninmd said...

Very pretty building and I love the gate. Great post and photos. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful week!

bettyl said...

Such wonderful architecture! I'm so glad you shared the photos and the story of them with us!

Cloudia said...

Wonderful post, and very good pictures with it, Dina!

In some ways those of the past were more humane than present 'leaders.'

Aloha from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
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Karen said...

Beautiful architecture!

Hels said...

Spooky and surreal! I was just writing about Jerusalem's Crusader architecture. My hands were tired from typing so I popped into your blog to see snowy images, and lo and behold Omar Mosque :)

Important dates, an important location and a really important builder - Saladin's son. And you are soooooo right - because of Caliph Omar's actions after his takeover of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre survived.

sparrow said...

Thanks Dina for your wonderful eye, picking out such interesting parts of the Holy City. Blessings from NZ.

Sara said...

The fanciful gate and surrounding facade are really beautiful. I like the carvings in the stone. Sounds like Caliph Omar was a very wise ruler and knew how to keep the peace.

toby said...

That is very beautiful! I love the intricate carvings in that pink stone - and I especially like how the shape of the gate repeats those same shapes. Lovely!

Fun60 said...

Thanks for the informative post. Don't think I have seen a square mineret before.

Spiderdama said...

Another informative post Dina og an interesting building in old city. I love that beautiful gate.

VP said...

I remember this quite well, isn't it near a station of the Via Crucis, the Veronica, may be?

Dina said...

Helen, nice timing. I wish I could take one of your courses.

VP, I know what you're thinking of, that Moslem building along the Way of the Cross. The top of its arch looks just like the upper stonework of the Omar Mosque gate.
But the Mosque of Omar you can see from the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre. When you exit the Holy Sepulchre, turn right, and start going up the steps--the mosque is on your left.