The Umayyad Mosque
Lying at the east end of Souk al Hamidiyeh, it is a place of magnificent beauty.
Its history goes back three thousand years. This location was first used as a temple dedicated to the worship of Hadad, who is the Aramean deity representing sun and thunder. Later on, in the 1st century AD, a large temple was built by the Romans and was dedicated to the Roman god of gods, Jupiter.
When the Roman capital moved from Rome to Constantinople in 330 Christianity began to spread in the empire and was soon considered the official religion. It was then that the Emperor Theodosius abolished pagan worship and made it the cathedral of the city, and it was dedicated to John the Baptist.
Arab conquest in 636 did not affect it, it remained a church although the Muslims built a mud brick structure against the southern wall so that they could pray. Through time Christians became few and Muslims were increasing, so it was changed into a mosque. It was worked on by Architects from Constantinople, Egypt, and Damascus.
It now holds the Shrine of John the Baptist's head, and there are many rumors to explain how it came to be here. One is that Herod sent it to Damascus so that the Romans could be sure of his execution, while another is that when the Arabs took over the church, John the Baptist's blood bubbled and when the church was demolished his head was found underneath it with skin and hair.
The plan of the mosque is quite simple, there is a magnificent courtyard which is heavily decorated by mosaics. In the middle of the courtyard are the Dome of the hours, the ablutions fountain, and the beautifully decorated Dome of the treasure.
This mosque is one of the few mosques that has three minarets, Minaret of the Bride (9th and 12th centuries), Minaret of Qat Bey (15th century), and the Minaret of Jesus (13th century