Research Project


The Idol of the Prophet Muhammad in the Templum Domini as an Eschatological Metaphor

Dr. Michelina Di Cesare

Several Medieval Latin texts mention the presence of a statue of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, as being located in the Templum Domini, the Qubbat al-Sakhra, in Jerusalem. This kind of improbable representation of Islam as an idolatrous religion has so far been analyzed in the context of the alleged idolatry of the Saracens as it is described in the Chansons de geste, and thus charged with ideological meanings or explained as the result of ignorance or indifference towards the Islamic tradition. This research will rather consider the peculiarity of the Latin texts in which this “pagan” image of the Prophet occurs. In fact, they belong to a literary production linked to the Holy Land, such as Chronicles of the Crusades and Pilgrimage narratives, genres in which time and space have a special status and where the eschatological dimension of the Crusade and pilgrimage experiences play an important role. By considering this element, together with the role assigned to Islam in a Christian reflection on history, the identification of Muhammad as an anti-messiah, recognized by the Jews, and the history of the Dome of the Rock, as found in Christian writings, it will be shown that the depiction of the Prophet as an idol in the Templum Domini originated with his identification as the Antichrist and developed as an eschatological metaphor with theological, historical, and literary meanings and functions.