Today, mosques are important parts of Islamic culture and have been since the beginning of the religion. The Great Mosque of Damascus or Umayyad Mosque is an architectural wonder, and it is considered to be one of the most important mosques in the world. Located in the old city of Damascus in Syria, it is considered by many muslims to be the fourth holiest place in Islam.
The site of the Umayyad mosque was considered holy even before the mosque was erected. Back in the times of the Roman Empire around 1000 B.C., a 1st century Hellenic temple stood on the site that was dedicated to the god of storm, Jupiter. Later, around A.D. 391, the temple was converted into a cathedral by Christian emperor, Theodosius 1. The cathedral was eventually dedicated to St. John the Baptist. “The mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, who is honored as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims” (sacred-destinations.com). After the battle of Yarmouk, the cathedral was captured by Muslim Arab leader, Khalid-bin-Walid in A.D. 636. The Christians and the Muslims agreed to split the cathedral where the Muslims would worship on the east side and the Christians on the west, but the Christian side was considerably larger. The sixth Umayyad caliph, al-Walid I was a well renowned patron for many impressive architectural projects (muslimheritage.com). He had commissioned the construction of a tremendous mosque over the site of the cathedral by demolishing the entire cathedral. In 1401, the Mosque was destroyed by Timur, but was rebuilt in 1401 by the Arabs. The Mosque was damaged again in 1893 by fire. It couldn’t be restored to its original form, but it still remains an impressive architectural monument.
The Umayyad Mosque’s architecture is extraordinary, even in today’s standards. Beautiful mosaics are displayed in the prayer hall, the inner side of the perimeter walls, and the court facades. The mosaics depict flowing rivers, fantastic houses, and richly foliate trees of variegated greens (metmuseum.org). There are three minarets at this mosque: the minaret of the bride, the minaret of Issa, and the minaret of Qaitbay. “The eastern minaret (called the white minaret or the Minaret of Issa) is believed to be the place where Prophet Issa, Jesus, will descend” (muslimheritage.com). The Minarets are tall towers near mosques that are used to call Muslims to prayer. The Mosque of Damascus is one of the few mosques in the world that have maintained its original general features and structure since its construction. The architecture of the mosque has been used as a base for many important mosques around the world such as the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain. This shows the importance and influence this mosque had on the Islamic world.
During Medieval Times in the Islamic world, mosques were crucial parts of everyday life. Mosques are places of worship that Muslims go to, just like how Christians go to church, or how Buddhists and Hindus go to temple. Throughout the week, mosques are used for prayer study, or simply as a place for study and reflection. In Medieval Times, the mosque was the center of the community. Mosques were a very important part of Islamic culture in the Middle Ages. During medieval times, not only did mosques serve as places of worship, but also as schools, courts, centers of learning, and meeting places (MacDonald 5). A person called a crier go into a minaret and calls believers to prayer five times a day. Mosques had many uses and were one of the most essential building in the medieval Islamic world.
The Great Mosque of Damascus has a deep and rich religious history. Overall, mosques are very important to Islam and everyday life, and it was even more so back in the Middle Ages due to the relevance of religion at the time. The Great Mosque of Damascus or Umayyad Mosque is an excellent example of the beauty and importance of mosques in the past.