Bahá’u’lláh and His fellow exiles stopped briefly in Haifa on 31 August 1868 en route to the prison city of ‘Akká across the bay. The town of Haifa was then situated at the foot of Mount Carmel.
After Bahá’u’lláh’s release from the prison city of ‘Akká, he visited Haifa three times – in 1883, 1890 and 1891. During the final visit, lasting several months, Bahá’u’lláh identified the position on the northern slope of Mount Carmel where the Shrine of the Báb would be located. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá organised the building of the Shrine whilst still resident in ‘Akká. In 1909 He interred the remains of the Báb in their permanent resting place.
The Shrine of the Báb was constructed under ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s supervision, and originally consisted of six rooms. Shoghi Effendi added three rooms onto its south side to form a square building, with the Báb’s tomb located beneath the centre room.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had intended that a more elaborate superstructure would eventually be constructed for the Shrine of the Báb. In 1942, Shoghi Effendi asked the distinguished Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell to begin work on its design, and the final form was approved in 1944.
Construction work on the superstructure of the Shrine of the Báb began in 1947 and proceeded in stages. The first stage, which was completed in May 1950, entailed the construction of a colonnaded arcade surrounding the original edifice, topped by a balustrade.
After the completion of the colonnaded arcade, work commenced on a windowed central octagon, topped by a second balustrade with minaret-like pinnacles at each corner. An 11-metre-high drum-like clerestory was then constructed with eighteen lancet windows. The superstructure was covered with a dome, covered in gilded tiles, and topped with a lantern and finial.
The superstructure of the Shrine of the Báb was completed in September 1953. One month later, Shoghi Effendi wrote, “A steadily swelling throng of visitors from far and near, on many days exceeding a thousand, is flocking to the gates leading to the Inner Sanctuary of this majestic mausoleum; paying homage to the Queen of Carmel enthroned on God’s Mountain, crowned in glowing gold, robed in shimmering white, girdled in emerald green, enchanting every eye from air, sea, plain and hill.”
Today, eighteen monumental terraces surround the Shrine of the Báb, from the foot to the crest of Mount Carmel, nine above and nine below the Shrine. The terraces were inaugurated in a ceremony held in May 2001.
Since 2001, more than ten million people have visited the garden terraces. In 2008, the Shrine of the Báb – along with the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh near ‘Akká – was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in recognition of its “outstanding universal value” to the common heritage of humanity.