54 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
is said to have ascended into heaven. The platform has four sides, but none of its sides are
equal, nor are any of its angles right angles. Its general level is about sixteen feet above
that of the Haram esh Sherif, and the top of the " Sakhra" is nearly five feet higher, or
two thousand four hundred and forty feet above the Mediterranean. The platform is paved
with flat slabs of stone. On the west and south-west it is partly supported by vaults. In
other directions the rock rises up to, or nearly up to, the level of the pavement. The most
interesting feature is the " Sakhra," or Rock, to which the beautiful building gives an air of
mystery and a prominence that it would not possess if the pavement were removed and the
ground were restored to its original form.
The platform is approached by several flights of steps, at the top of which are screens
supported by light columns, called " mawazin," or balances. (See pages 49, 53, and 63.)
The Kubbet es Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) is an octagonal building, each side of
which measures sixty-six feet. Internally it is one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter.
The great rock, the " Sakhra," which is in the centre, is encircled by four massive piers and
twelve columns; three columns being placed between each pair of piers. They are united
by arches and support the beautifully proportioned dome, which is sixty-six feet in diameter
at its base. An octagonal screen, composed of eight piers and sixteen columns, divides the
remaining space into two encircling aisles; the outer aisle being thirteen and the inner one
thirty feet wide. (See page 59.) There is a door in each of the four faces fronting the
cardinal points—on the north, Bab el Jenne (Gate of Paradise) ; Bab el Gharby (West Gate);
Bab el Kible (South Gate); and the Bab en Neby Datid (Gate of the Prophet David).
Each of the doorways had in front of it an open porch of columns, but, with the exception
of that before the Bab el Kible, they have been closed in and cased with marble. The
chambers thus formed are made use of by the attendants of the mosque. The doors are
covered with plates of bronze, and have very fine old locks.
The building consists of a basement sixteen feet high, pierced only by the four doors;
then a story of plain masonry, twenty feet in height, with seven round arches on each side,
thirty-eight of which are pierced for windows, and the remaining eighteen are blind panels.
The basement is cased with slabs of various coloured marble, which are fastened to the
masonry by metal clamps run in with lead.
The old round-headed arches are hidden by pointed arches probably dating from the
sixteenth century. In course of time several of the pointed arches fell out, and the western
faces became so ruinous that in 1873 the Turkish Government found it necessary to carry
out extensive repairs. It was then that Mons. Ganneau discovered " that the parapet wall
above the principal range of windows, which had always been believed to be solid, was in
reality composed of a range of thirteen small arches on each face, each arch being adorned
with a small dwarf pillar on each side. It may be assumed as certain that this arcade formed
the front of a covered gallery, not only because no other view seems consistent with common
sense, but because the description of it by John of Wurzburg, made in the time of the