Stucco-covered wooden side-rib
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Probably about hegira 424 / AD 1033
Wood covered with carved, painted and gilded stucco.
Length 152 cm, width 140 cm, depth 4 cm
A wooden side-rib belonging to a collection of pieces comprising wood covered with carved, painted and gilded stucco. The carvings of vegetal and geometric motifs and pseudo calligraphic script are gilded and painted using a palette of blue, red, green and white against a background of various colours but predominantly black.
The side-rib once formed part of the decoration of the interior dome of al-Aqsa Mosque, whose damaged parts were replaced in 1938 after gradual deterioration caused by moisture and water infiltration. The importance of this piece lies in its being practically the sole witness to the Fatimid restoration of the dome of al-Aqsa Mosque during the period of the Fatimid caliph al-Zahir bi- Amrillah (r. AH 411–27 / AD 1021–36). It is worth mentioning that other similar parts were lost as a result of a fire which broke out in the mosque in 1969; this led to the destruction of most of the parts of the wooden dome in addition to other sections of al-Aqsa Mosque.
The domes were typically composed, of an inner and outer shell. The inner shell consisted of a wooden skeleton, plated on the inside with circular wooden panels. Palm fibres were affixed to the wooden panels by means of wooden nails. The fibres were then covered with a layer of plaster (stucco) several centimetres thick. After that, the stucco was carved to form the requisite decorations which were painted with different colours and gilded. The outer shell consists of a wooden skeleton which is covered on the outside with metal plates. Lead is normally used, as noted in the dome of al-Aqsa Mosque today, but copper is sometimes employed as can be seen to this day in the Dome of the Rock. The dome of the Dome of the Rock is, however, no different from the dome of al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of its construction.
This rib from the interior dome of al-Aqsa Mosque features vegetal and geometric decoration and a gilded inscription against a coloured background. It is almost the sole witness to the restoration of the dome in the Fatimid period during the reign of Caliph al-Zahir. Other pieces of evidence were lost in the arson attack on the mosque in 1969.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
The piece was dated by comparison with the remaining parts from the same period still on site.
The piece was transferred from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Museum during the restoration work carried out in 1938.
Jerusalem was narrowed down as the place of production because typically architectural pieces were made and decorated in situ.
Hamilton, R. W., The Structural History of al-Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Cleaning from the Repairs of 1938–42, London, 1949.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Stucco-covered wooden side-rib" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;8;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 08
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Fatimids | Mosque and Palace
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