The modest Omar Mosque is was built in the 12th century directly across from the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The mosque is named for the 7th-century caliph Omar, whose actions after his takeover of Jerusalem ensured the Church of Holy Sepulchre remained open to Christian worship.
History of Umar Mosque
After a brief and bloodless seige, Muslims seized control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in February 638. Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab accepted the city's surrender from Patriarch Sophronius in person.
Omar was shown the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre and offered a place to pray in it, but he refused. He knew that if he prayed in the church, it would set a precedent that would lead to the building's transformation into a mosque. He instead prayed on the steps outside, allowing the church to remain a Christian holy place.
The Omar Mosque was built near the site of these events in 1193 by Saladin's son Aphdal Ali. The location is not exact, for the entrance to the Church was on the east in Omar's time; the present entrance was only inaugurated in the 11th century.
What to See at Umar Mosque
Reached by a short stairway that descends from Christian Quarter Road, it has a distinctive square minaret. The base of the minaret contains some Crusader masonry and was given its present form around 1460. The mosque is open to Muslims only.
Confusingly, the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount is sometimes referred to as "the Mosque of Omar," despite the fact that it is not a mosque and was not built by Omar. There is also a small mosque adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque known as the Mosque of Umar, which is on the traditional site of the Caliph's prayers upon arrival in Jerusalem. It is mostly Ottoman in date.
Quick Facts on Umar Mosque
|Visitor and Contact Information
|31.704639° N, 35.205839° E
|Bethlehem, State of Palestine
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- Eyewitness Travel Guide to Jerusalem and the Holy Land (DK, 2002), 95.
- Kay Prag, Blue Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Black and Norton, 2002), 132.
- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Oxford Archaeological Guides: The Holy Land (Oxford, 1998), 58.
- Daniel Jacobs, Mini Rough Guide to Jerusalem (Rough Guides, 1999), 52.
- Muslim Jerusalem - The Noble Sanctuary
- Photos of Umar Mosque - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Umar Mosque, Bethlehem
Below is a location map and aerial view of Umar Mosque. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.