The Grand Mosque of Damascus is popularly known as the Umayyad Mosque. This mosque is regarded as one of the oldest as well as the largest and also the holiest mosques in the world.
Adjoining the wall at the northern side is the position of the tomb of Saladin. The tomb of Saladin is placed in a garden. It is believed that the mosque has the shrine of John, the Baptist. He was honored as a messenger by both the Muslims as well as the Christians.
Tomb Of Saladin
Damascus has the honor of being the oldest city that is thickly populated for a quite a lot of time. The ground on which the mosque stands is considered to be one of the holiest places in the world for nearly the last 3000 years.
In 1000 BC a temple was been created here by the Arameans. The temple was been constructed for Hadad, who is considered as the god of storms and also lightening. In the corner of the mosque at the northeastern side a basalt orthostat was being located. The orthostat belonged to 1000 BC and was representing a sphinx.
Later in the first century AD, the huge temple of Aramean temple was been taken over by the Romans who arrived in the city around the same time. The Romans constructed a temple devoted to Jupiter on the same place. The temple designed by the Romans was constructed on a rectangular base which was known as temenos. The length of the base was around 385 m whereas the width was around 305 m. At every corner of the base a tower was been erected. The fractions of a wall which was positioned on the exterior of the base have survived till date. Practically, no parts of the early temple are not found.
The temple’s region was later renowned as a Christian holy place during the late 4th century. In the early 5th century the temple that was dedicated to Jupiter was been destroyed. A church was been constructed on the same base and was devoted to John the Baptist. It is believed that the church enshrines the Baptist head. During the Byzantine era the site was transformed into an important pilgrimage place.
Grand Mosque Damascus
The region of Damascus was conquered by the Muslims in 636 AD. The conquest didn’t affect the church as the holy place was shared as a place or worship by both Christian as well as Muslim worshippers. More or less it was more popular as a holy church and a played a key role in attracting the Christians. A mud-brick monument was been constructed by the Muslims opposite to the wall located in the south of the church. This place was later used as a worshipping place by the Muslims.
Damascus was later taken over by Al-Walid, a Umayyad Caliph. He was responsible for the demolition of the Church. The present day mosque was been constructed during 706 and 715 on the base of the church on the order of Al-Walid. A popular tale regarding the mosque states that the destruction of the church was personally initiated by Al-Walid. He was the first one to demolish the church by hitting his gold spike on the church’s wall.
During the seventh century Damascus was considered as one of the most significant cities that were located in the Middle-east. Later Damascus was been declared as the capital city of the caliphate Umayyad. The Mosque of Umayyad located in the city of Damascus was a huge and beautiful structure. Around thousands of craftsmen were called from Persia, Coptic, Byzantine as well as India for the construction of the magnificent building. The mosques building comprised of a immense courtyard, a prayer hall and a nearby around 100 rooms for the visiting worshippers. The layout of the mosque was very much inspired from the Prophet’s mosque in Medina.
The prayer hall was tripling aisled. Also the length of the hall was around 160 m. The roof of the prayer hall was tiled with wood. The hall and its roofs were supported by the columns which were originally constructed for the Roman temple which was also used by the Church.
The frontage of the quad and its walkway were enclosed in colored marble, gold and glass mosaic. The mosque is considered to have the biggest gold mosaic in the entire world. It covers an area of around 4000 sq mtrs. The mosque’s minaret arrangement was constructed in the towers’ corner at the older Roman base.
In the year 1069 and also 1401 as well as 1893 the Mosque of Umayyad was been constructed again. In the year 1893 a fire took place in the mosque. Many parts of the mosques were greatly damaged. The marble panel that is seen in the mosque even today is considered as to be built after the fire in year 1893. Pope John Paul II visited the Umayyad mosque in the year 2001. The reason behind the very first visit of any Pope in a mosque was to visit the remnants of John the Baptist.
What to See
The Mosque of Umayyad is till date considered as one of the most attractive and magnificent mosque in the Islam’s world, with its huge courtyard and the airy prayer hall. Some of the old day’s mosaics that belong to the early 8th century are also present in the mosque. The mosaics can be seen on arches, portico as well as the transect.
The minarets belong to the period of Al-Walid which was later reconstructed in the year 1340 and also 1488. The minaret located in the corner at the southeastern region is commonly known as the Minaret of Jesus, as the Muslims believes that Jesus will appear again on the Judgmental Day.
Minaret Of Jesus
A little chapel as well as the shrine of John the Baptist is located in the interior of the mosque. The shrine of John the Baptist is commonly known as the shrine of the Prophet Yahia for all the Muslims. It is believed that the head of the Baptist is buried in the mosque. One of the interesting tale states that when the church was demolished by Al-Walid the head of Baptist was found with his skin and hair completely present on the head. It is believed that the head have some supernatural powers.
How to reach
Damascus International Airport is the airport located much closed to the mosque. The later journey is easily achieved by using the minibus services that are available in the city. You can also hail a cab or rent a taxi and reach the mosque.
When to visit
The best time to visit the Grand Mosque of Damascus is the months of December, May as well as August.