Al Aqsa Mosque is located on Temple Mount (The Noble Sanctuary or Al-Haram-Al-Sharif) within the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, along with the better known Dome of the Rock but in actual fact Al Aqsa Mosque is just as fascinating and even more sacred than its better known neighbor. Al Aqsa means the Distant, furthest or Far Mosque in Arabic and this has religious significance in the Koran. Al Aqsa Mosque is the second oldest mosque in the world, the third holiest and one of the biggest taking up 1/6 of all the land within Jerusalem’s Old City walls. The mosque can accommodate 4,000 worshipers at its capacity.
Nothing remains of the original mosque built on this site in 710AD but it has been reconstructed several times over the centuries most recently in 1942. Al Aqsa was also occupied by the Crusaders who called it Solomon’s Temple and used it as a palace and later in 1118 the Knights Templar made it their base in Jerusalem. The Romanesque arches around the mosque are a remnant of the Templar period.
This beautiful religious monument has been the site of much unrest over the past years but also the source of religious contemplation and peace. The Al Aqsa is also one of the most beautiful Mosques in the world. Apart from the Romanesque Crusader façade at the entrance there are 11th and 12th century designs over the entrance arches. Mussolini contributed marble columns which run down the side of the central open prayer area. These columns support a row of mosaic detailed arches above which murals cover the ceiling (paid for by King Farouk of Egypt). The exquisitely decorated arched niche in the southern wall (Milrab) indicates which direction Mecca is and has survived since 1187. The most recognizable element of the Al Aqsa Mosque’s structure is the silver colored lead dome along with the four minarets.
The Al Aqsa Mosque in the Koran:
The Koran describes the Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad, who traveled on a mystical winged horse from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the farthest Mosque which is believed to be the Mosque of Al Aqsa.
Interesting features of the Al Aqsa Mosque:
- There is a vaulted ceiled Crusader Chapel used only for female prayer.
- There is an Islamic Museum housed in what once was the Templar annex.
- There are 7 gates leading into Al Aqsa Mosque.
- There are 3 square minarets and one cylindrical minaret from the Mamluk period.
The impressive Al Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem is a national landmark bringing tranquility to those taking a moment out of their busy day to enjoy the peaceful and sacred atmosphere of this breathtaking building.