Icons John the Baptist and Sanctified Spaces in Early Islamic Syria

Nancy Khalek

in Damascus after the Muslim Conquest

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736515
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918614 | DOI:
Icons John the Baptist and Sanctified Spaces in Early Islamic Syria

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This chapter discusses the veneration of John the Baptist in Byzantine and early Islamic Syria. The combined cult of John the Baptist and Jesus, with special emphasis on the symbol of the Cross, was a long-standing one in Byzantium. It was also a site of contestation between Muslims and Christians in Islamic Syria. The relics of the Baptist's head were housed within the Great Mosque of the city, which replaced the former cathedral of Damascus. The chapter discusses the iconography of the Baptist and Jesus in the Byzantine world, and describes how the early Muslim community separated its veneration of the Baptist from the image of Jesus and the Cross to put forward its own claims to Biblical tradition. This phenomenon marked the beginning of established Muslim loca sancta outside of Arabia. The remainder of the chapter examines the accretion of stories and legends about the Baptist in the Islamic imagination, as well as the proliferation of tombs and monuments dedicated to the Companions of Muhammad in Damascus and its hinterland.

Keywords: cult; Baptist; mosque; Damascus; iconography; true cross; tombs; companions

Chapter.  19152 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Islam

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