How Did The Mosque Get Ahead?

An interesting question came over the transom just now. Someone who's obviously keeping tabs on Gramma's turn on the popular show Dancing With The Dictators wanted to know (since Gramma toured the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus) how the head of John the Baptist came to be in a Mosque in Syria.

Well, if Wiki is to be believed, maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Several places claim to have that particular relic, including the Church of San Silvestre in Rome, the town of West Yorkshire, England, Antioch and the south of France. Damascus just rounds out the list. John Paul II visited the tomb and relics in Damascus, and gave this address there in 2001, if you want his opinion.

If the head in the mosque is really John's, it got there --try to stifle your shock-- because the mosque was built on top of a Church. (In fairness, it was first a succession of pagan temples of various provenance.) The Church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, as Christians in Jerusalem smuggled his bones and buried them in Damascus after his grave was vandalized under Julian the Apostate. The head may or may not have been included --some Knights Templar seem to have roamed around with it for a few centuries (not the same knights, but members of their order).

At any rate, when Damascus fell to the Muslims in 636, all was well at first. Muslims & Christians both venerated the site, and Muslims built a little place for themselves to pray against the Southern wall of the Church. Until Caliph Al-Walid I razed the church and built the Umayyad mosque in its place. I'm just wondering if Gramma contemplated the significance of that as she was praying at the tomb.

More facts I did not know about John the Baptist: there's a religion that thinks he was the Messiah. And in Islam, his name is Yahya. I tried very hard to come up with a post title about Yahya sisterhood, but couldn't