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View looking southeast inside the al-Aqsa Mosque at the southeastern corner of the structure. The main "nave" of the mosque is visible on the right side of the image (from where this picture was taken), and the mihrab and minbar are visible in the distance.
To the left of the center of the image, the three eastern "aisles" are visible between the rows of columns. The southeastern portion of the mosque was completely rebuilt 1938-1942. The marble columns were donated by Mussolini
The el-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam - after Mecca and Medina. Its name means "the distant place," and it is believed that Mohammed made a "night journey" to this place.
Caliph Walid (A.D. 709–715) built the first mosque. The mosque is built over a large number of subterranean arches, not on bedrock, and thus has been destroyed (earthquakes; the most recent in 1927) and rebuilt many times. During the Crusader Period (A.D. 1099-1187) it served briefly as the palace for the Crusader kings of Jerusalem, but then became the headquarters of the Knights Templar until the Crusaders were expelled from Jerusalem—when it was returned to its original function as a mosque.
The photo is courtesy of David Padfield (www.Padfield.com). The commentary is that of Carl Rasmussen.