This is one of Pierotti’s magnificent views of the Dome of the Rock (Kubbet es-Sakharah), located atop the Temple Mount. This and the Aqsa mosque are undoubtedly the most iconic Islamic monuments within the Haram al-Sharif, and thus in Jerusalem in general. Since its initial construction in the late 7th century, the Dome of the Rock has, with its spectacular golden dome, served as the signature landmark in views of the Old City of Jerusalem. The octagonal building was constructed as part of the larger sacred precinct (Haram al-Sharif), but it is quite possible that the Muslim builders already found the octagonal foundations for a Byzantine martyrium church in place and simply expanded on those.
While Pierotti and others often refer to it as a mosque, the Dome of the Rock is, in fact, more a place of holy veneration. Muslims believe that the protruding natural rock around which the complex was built constitutes the very same rock upon which Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son to God. Islamic tradition also claims that it was from this rock that the Prophet Mohammad set off on his ‘Night Flight’ to the heavens.
Looking at the facade of the building, the view includes several subsidiary buildings, including an adjacent pavilion known as the Kubbet es-Silsileh or Dome of the Chain (also used for prayer). Being a keen architectural analyst, Pierotti identifies all of these surrounding features by means of a numbered legend accompanying the lithograph:
1. Mosque Kubbet es-Sakharah.
2. Ladder used by Pierotti for his observations.
3. Minaret of Kadhi.
4. Kubbet es-Silsileh, Dome of the Chain.
5. Bâb el-Daûd, David’s Gate.
6. Cistern (the Place of the Ashes).
7. Bâb el-Jenni, Gate of Paradise.
8. Mount Moriah (anciently the Threshing-floor of Araunah).
In 1864, the same year that the first British Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem was commissioned, Italian engineer Ermete Pierotti published Jerusalem Explored, a seminal work on the history, archaeology, and architectural history of the ancient and holy city. This work included Pierotti’s notes and insights after years of surveying and mapping under Ottoman authority. The publication was divided into a text volume and a volume of plates. The latter included 63 lithographs showing everything from strategic views, across architectural plans and section profiles, to panoramic vistas of the Old City. Most of the lithographed plates were based either on photographs or drawings made by Pierotti and his team.
The plates were lithographed mainly by Thomas Picken of London and printed by the prominent British lithography firm William Day & Sons.