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The Shape of the Holy:
Early Islamic Jerusalem
Oleg Grabar

Winner of the 1997 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in the Arts, Association of American Publishers
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1997

Hardcover | 1996 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691036533

Reviews

From the time of Herod through the Crusades, Jerusalem had officially "changed its religion" several times, with Jews, Christians, and Muslims inscribing the story of their faiths on the urban landscape. In this handsomely illustrated book, noted Islamist Oleg Grabar offers a rare account of the great role played by early Islam in defining the "look" of Jerusalem that remained largely intact until the twentieth century. From about 640 to 1100, Muslims transformed Christian Jerusalem, mainly the area now known as the Haram al-Sharif, both physically and ideologically to embody their new faith. Grabar examines this process, showing how it led to great architectural achievements, including The Dome of the Rock, still perhaps the most vivid image to impress any visitor to Jerusalem. Offering a major photographic record of The Dome's mosaics in color together with its interiors, this book shows in rich detail how Islam articulated itself architecturally, touching on historical and legendary memories and on themes of both religious harmony and Islamic triumph.

Dominating Jerusalem's landscape today, The Dome of the Rock was commissioned by Abd Al-Malik in 691, and still houses the Rock from which the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended into heaven. Grabar argues that its construction altered the visual equilibrium of Jerusalem by equating its eastern hill, Mt. Moriah, a key landmark in Islam, with its western ones, Golgotha and Mt. Zion, highlighted by Christian monuments. A close look at The Dome's construction and decoration leads to a new explanation of the building as a Late Antique monument of art that could be adapted to several different and at times simultaneous interpretations. Grabar also offers a unique portrait of Jerusalem in the eleventh century under the Fatimid dynasty in Cairo, when the city was at its peak as a peaceful, cosmopolitan center. Through an innovative computer modeling program, Grabar presents fascinating reconstructions of the Haram al-Sharif, taking us down streets and past buildings, of which only remnants exist today.

Review:

"In this lavishly and uniquely illustrated work, Grabar details the architectural history of the city. . . . Magisterial in its inferences and arguments and written in language accessible to a general audience, this oversized book is a splendid addition to recent studies of Islamic art and architecture."--Choice

File created: 7/11/2014

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