Isfahan


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Introduction

Among the cities of Iran, Isfahan is like a piece of jewelry that despite the historical fluctuations in the area has still retained its luster and glory throughout the centuries. The city is so vibrant that it seems as if it has been born today and yet it is so original that it looks as though it has always existed. The city’s rich culture and beautiful nature are in such perfect harmony that one seems to be a reflection of the other. Isfahan is an ultimate expression of the Iranian-Islamic Culture.

Isfahan: The City of Four Seasons
Isfahan is located in the central Iran inside the plains stretching along Zayandeh Rood River. The city is located in a relatively mountainous area in the center of the Iranian Plateau and stretches from the snowy Zagros Mountains in the West to the East and North-central deserts of Iran. There exists a variety of climatic conditions in the city thanks to regions with different altitudes.
Generally, as the altitude falls from Western city to the Eastern, the area temperature increases together with the decrease in the amount of rainfall. There is a breeze drifting in the city throughout the four seasons. The Western and Southwestern winds which blow along Zayandeh Rood River in the spring and fall endow the city with a glorious weather. Isfahan is a city with regular seasonal changes. Spring begins in late March with the trees in full bloom, summer in late June. The city greets fall color in late September with the leaves falling off the trees and winter starts in late December. Among all the seasons and months, Isfahan is in its perfect splendor in May. It’s the month when a breeze from the sky drifts through the colorful city in possession of a pleasant weather and luring lights. Isfahan is dowered with a full sunlight and is sunny three fourth of a year.

Introduction of Isfahan
Nowhere in the land of Persia did I see a city more charming, perfect and advanced than Isfahan.”
Naser Khosrow Qobadiani
Covering an area of about 10526sqkm, the province of Isfahan consists of 68 cities.
19 towns and 39 districts including Aran and Bidghol, Ardestan, lsfahan, Fereydun.
Fereydun- Shahr. Felavarjan, Kashan, Golpayegan, Lenjan, Mobarakeh, Na’in, Najafabad and Natanz to name only a few.
The province is bounded by Central Province and Semnan on the north, Fars and Kerman on the south, Khorasan on the east and Lorestan, Chahar-Mahal Bakhtiari and Kohkiloyeh-Boyerahmad on the west. The Karkas Mountain with 389s meters high is located in the central part and Shahan Mountain with 4040 meters high in the west. Zayandeh Rud, the longest river in the province, originates from Bakhtiari Zardkuh Mountain in Shahr-e Kurd city. Flowing From West to East. Its main origin is close to that of the Karun River. Due to numerous rivers and mountains, Isfahan province enjoys modera climate with regula seasons. A Annual rainfall is comparatively low with cold and snowy winters in mountainous areas but there are moderate and pleasant summers.
Located in the centre and south-west of the province, Isfahan, the capital, is bounded by Ardestan on the north, Na’in on the north-east and Shahreza, Felaverkjan and Khomeini-Shahr on the east.
Nobody knows for sure when or by whom the city was built. Historical and geographical literature teems with fictions and legends The Pahlavi Treatise on Iranian Cities says, “Alexander the Great, the son of Philip lI, founded the city of Jay where there were mainly Jews who were taken there by Yazdegerd for suiting his wife, Shushin-dokht.” Hamzeh of Isfahan also says, The city was founded by Alexander and was called after Jay ibn Zarradeh of Isfahan, its architect, ” And Firuz, author of The Mojmal al-Tavarikh val-Qesas says, Sepahan was apparently founded by Alexander . . but the Persians deny it. They claim Alexander was more destructive than constructive. However, such references are to be found in some books.”
Elsewhere, he attributes the foundation of the city to Keyqobad.
In his “Reports on Isfahan”, Abu Na’im of Isfahan says the ancient city of Isfahan (Jay) was founded either by Tahmuras (Tahma-Urupa), a Pishdadid monarch or by Faridun (Traetaona) who appointed Kaveh as his commander-in-chief after trouncing Zahhak. Kaveh was appointed as the city governor and contributed greatly to develop it. In The Noz’hat al- Qulub Hamdollah Mostowfi mentions Djamshud (Yima) and in his “History of Isfahan, and Rhagae and All the World” Jaberi Ansari mentions  Djamshud (Yima), son of the Sassanid Yazdegerd.
Evidently, Isfahan has had residents since the third century B. C. Remnants from the tombs uncovered date back to pre-Zoroastrian era and to immigration of Aryan races, In The Seni Molok Arz, Hamzeh of Isfahan says, “In 961 A.D, some parts of Saraviyya building in Jay square collapsed where large books written on “Tuz” skin were discovered, They were illegible and their script was unlike any other.” In The Mojam al-Boldan, Yaqut Homavi refers to the discovery of corpses which had remained intact for thousands of years. Archaeological explorations refer to coffins which were basically enamelled with bas relief and exhibited a naked god named Anahid.
Pursuant to the migration of the Aryan tribes, lsfahan became one of the twelvefold Median regions in Parthia. Native Parthis were recognized as one of the six Median tribes who had immigrated from central Asia to Rhagae, and then to Isfahan. Native people were chiefly engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry specially horse husbandry and horse-riding. In his reports dating back to 1275 A.D., Asarkhadoon states that the ruler of this region sought the assistance of Assyrians in a bid to suppress opposition and sent some horses every year as an annual levy in lieu of their assistance. The levy was of prime importance to Assyrians. Strabone, however, considers Gabineh (Gay or Jay) or district of Isfahan as a port of Elamite land. Some others believe that Gabeh Jay) became the capital of Anzan following the overthrow of Elamite regime and independence of Anzan.
Parthia was situated on the route connecting Susa to Persia during the Achaemenid era. Prior to Alexander’s invasion, it was considered as one of the fourteenfold satrapies of the eastern state. According to other sources, Gabi (Jay) used to be a royal residence. After the death of Alexander, Parthia changed into a battlefield among his successors. Finally, it was Mithradates I who occupied the land of Medes in 155 B.C. and Parthia was occupied after the defeat of Demetrius ll, the Seleucid king. Since then no mention has been made of Parthia in the divisions of satrapies and the area apparently became part of the land of Persia.
When local warlords gained independence late in Arsacid period, Shaz-Shapur set up an independent suzerainty in Isfahan but he was killed in a war with Ardashir Papakan in the late 3rd century B.C. and the latter took over the region. During the Sassanid era, the region became centre of Gabi or Gahiyaneh or Gay as one of the nineteenfold regions of Kost-Nimruz-one of the fourfold regions in Iran. It was SO importan .that its administration was assigned to a prince or even to a crown prince. At that time, Jay became a major city in central Iran and in the late Sassanid era, it was the centre of Espoohrans (princes and nobles) where the latter used to reside.
The nature of Arab conquest of lsfahan is controversial. Abuna’im Isfahani writes, “isfahan was conquered in the late 20th or 21st year.” Tabari supports the latter one but Belazari says, “Isfahan and its land were conquered sometme either in year 23rd or in 24th.” Tabari is quoted as saying that Omar the 2nd Caliph, ordered Abdullah ibn bdullah Atban to go to lsfahan and he was one of the adherents of Prophet Mohammad (SA) from Ansar group, the caliph in Khazraj and a fighter.
And Omar also summoned Abu Musa Ashari from Basra and ordered him to follow Basra army and go to lsfahan with Abdullah ibn Abdullah , and in lsfahan there was a man held in reverence by the Persians called Fadosphan who commanded a large number of soldiers. When the two opposing armies faced each other. Fadosphan came out of the army and summoned Abdullah and asked “What is your motive in victimising people in war?.. come with me, if you could kill me, Isfahan would be yours, but if I could kill you, I would rule your army … Fadosphan answered, ” I agree as you look a real man and I will meet whatever you expect.”
Abdullah asked him either to embrace Islam or to pay tribute in lieu of conversion.
He said, “I would accept to pay tribute and make peace … It was for three days that Abdullah had made peace but had not entered into the city. Upon the arrival of Abu Musa, they entered into the city and set up suzerainty.
In his Translation of The History of Qom, Hassan ibn Qomi writes, “Most parts of Isfahan were conquered in war by Abu Musa Ash’ari During the reign of the Caliphs and the Umayyad, the region was supervised by the ruler of Iraq who was usually appointed by him. In this period, lsfahan underwent gradual deterioration. In The Advantages of Isfahan, Ma-Farrokhi says Mansur (the Abbasid Caliphi fell sick and doctors recommended that he live in the best region of the world in terms of weather book Shahrestan (Jay) was destroyed and only a small part of it had remained.
By the early 10th century Isfahan was governed by the Abbasids but from 907 to 1000 A.D u it was ruled by the Sassanids. It was conquered by Mardavij lbn Zeyad in 923 A.D, who then settled there. It was captured by the Buyyid in 929 A.D. following the Mardavij’s murder then for sometime the city was transferred among Various rulers of Buyyid. The Buyyid government was marked by numerous conflicts and military expeditions of its rulers as well of those of the Sassanid and the Ghaznavids. Contrary to these trends, development of the city was not ignored, specially during the reign of Rukn ad-Dowleh Hassan (972 A.D) to whom the foundation of Tabrak castle and the rampart around the city is attributed.
In 1004 A.D Ala al-Dowleh Kakoyeh was appointed as the governor of Isfahan by Seyyedeh Khatun, mother of Majd al-Dowleh, In 1029 A.D, Mas’ud of Ghazna Captured Isfahan for which he appointed a governor. In the absence of Mas’ud, the people rebelled against the governor and killed him. Mas’ud launched an attack on Isfahan again and wiped out the rebels; however, Ala al-Dowleh regained the city from Mas’ud by paying him some money and embarked upon the reconstruction of the city. After the death of Ala ad- Dowleh in 1041 A.D., his son, Abu Mansur Faramarz took over office. He avoided preaching in Tughril’s name. Hence, Tughril led an expedition to lsfahan in order to oust him in 1050, and in 1051, he captured the city and transferred his capital from Rhagae to Isfahan.
Tughril spent the last twelve years of his life in Isfahan and lavishly contributed to the development of the city. It was at that time when Naser Khosrow (1052 A.D) visited the city and appreciated it, saying, “Nowhere all across the land of the Persia did I find a city more charming, p perfect and developed than Isfahan.
Isfahan continued to remain as the Seljuk capital after the suzerainty of Tughril till 1131 A.D. and death of Mohammad ibn Malik Shah.
it was, however, during the reign of Alp Arslan (Tughril’s successor), his son, Malik Shah, his successor, and the premiership of Khwaja Nezam al.Mulk at-Tusi that the development of the city revived and so many buildings were constructed and the city flourished to a degree unprecedented prior to the Mongols in central Iran. After the death of Malik Shah in 1092 A.D. due to the clashes between Barkiyarok and Sultan Mohammad, his two sons in order to take power, the coming to power of Ismailiya, conquest of Shahdez close to Isfahan, besiege of Shahdez by Barkiyarok in 1104 A.D. and famine in Isfahan that a lot of damages were incurred on the city.
Although the city experienced relative peace following the death of Barkiyarok in 1104 A.D, return of sultan Mohammad ibn Malik Shah, suppress of Bateni, capture and flay of Ahmad ibn Abdul Malik Attash, the leader of Batenis in 1106, after the death of Sultan Mohammad in 1117 A.D. and transfer of power from Isfahan to Khorasan during which religious conflicts specially between two tribes of Al-e Khojand and Al-e Sa’ed prior to the conquest of the city by Mongol (1239 A.D.) Were intensified which brought about a lot of damage and destruction: Iranian cities of middle centuries are primarily characterised by religious conflicts among various sects in the name of religion but in fact in the name of power. These Conflicts reached to their pinnacle in the 12th century during which the Ismailiya adherents started plundering and set fire on 515 Friday mosques, destroyed unique and valuable library of the city on one hand, and conflict between Al-e Khojand Shafei and Al-e Saed Khafi tribes in 1166 A.D. led to blood-sh between them as well as massacre and casualties. The conflicts continued till the mid 13th century A.D during which the Mongols dominated the city and perpetrated such a large amount of massacre and destruction that “no trace did remain from the grapevines or the vines”!
It was in 1196 A. D. that Khwarazm Shah Takish gained victory over Tughril and his murderer, and conquered isfahan but the authority of the Kharazmshahian over the city could not last long because Khwarazm Shah was residing in an area a bit far from the city. Isfahan suffered a lot from the sedition brought about by the Mongols in 1229 A.D. but it was Khwarazm Shah who first won over the invader for a short time and turned the city into a military camp. In 1337 A. D. the Mongols attacked the city for a second time but the people took advantage of its strong rampart and defended the city which ended in the defeat of the invaders.
In order to get rid of the Hanafities, the Shafilts joinod the Mongols and opened the city gate at night but the invaders exterminated the Shafities and the Hanafities, leaving behind a ruined city.
The Mongols ruled over the city for a century, For sometimes In the 14th century, the city was governed by Sheikh Abu Is’haq Inju who was admired by Hafez and then by Amir Mobarez ad-Din Mozaffari. Ibn Battuta, who paid a visit to the city in 1356 A.D, described it as a grand and splendid city, He, however, writes “Large parts of the city now have declined to ruins as a result of the clashes between the Sunnis and Shiites. The clashes are still under way and people permanently experience Conflict and blood-shed.” After people had killed Tamerlane’s soldiers and tax collectors in 1395 A.D. Tamerlane ordered massacre in retaliation which resulted!
in the carnage of 700,000 people. The city was captured by Jahan Shah Qara Qoyunlu who started plundering and massacre, too. In 1480 A.D. the city was occupied by Ozun Hassan from Aq Qoyunlu Turkmen and his family ruled the city for 35 years.
Ambrozio Kentarini who was the ambassador of the Venice Republic met Ozun Hassan in 1483 A.D, and wrote, “lt is a vast city located in a plain with so many blessings… The city is surrounded by mud brick and It is expensive” Jozafa Barbaro, another ambassador of the Venice Republic describes the city differently, I “The city is characterised by a mudbrick fortification and canal whose circumference is four miles but ten miles along with the suburb. The suburb houses are comparable with those within the fortification. Jahan Shah Qara Qoyunlu an Iranian king marched into the city and subjugated people. He then left the city after making them obedient, but shortly afterwards, the people revolted again which convinced him to dispatch a military expedition to the city to loot and plunder the city and each soldier was carrying a head with him. The army members obeyed the command exactly. I had heard that if any member could not bring back the head of a man, he had cut a woman’s head and hair in token of obeying the command. The army destroyed all the city. Contrary to what happened, one -sixth of the city is still residential … But it is narrated that prior to these incidents, the city used to accommodate 50000 people.
Although the first Safavid kings accorded great attention to the reconstruction of the city and a lot of monuments and buildings survived under Shah Ismail and Shah Tahmasb, the period after the selection of the city as the capital in 1216 A.D. by Shah Abbas and a period of a one-hundred year prior to the defeat of Shah Sultan Hussein in 1740 by Ashraf Afghan is the time in which the city was the Safavid capital and it experienced its full flourish and development.
The Safavid kings made concerted efforts to develop the city, building monuments and wonderful structures. Craftsmen and artists were flowing into the city and Iranian art, architecture, calligraphy, painting, tile-work and carpet-weaving developed so much so that no government, school and institute could, 300 years after, get along with that trend, let alone competing with it. By that time, Isfahan had gained great fame in all European capitals and courts. Many foreigners visited Isfahan and tried to describe the city to the best of their ability. Extant travel accounts attest to the amount of wonder and admiration shown by the tourists. Chardin compares the city with the European capital cities and in terms of population with London as the most populated city of that time. Tavernier says, ‘Isfahan including the Mahallat is not smaller than Paris and Campfer considers it as the biggest Asian city across the Kong River.
To describe Isfahan in the Safavid era and/or from the attack of Ashraf Afghan till the suzerainty of Nader Shah and the Zand dynasty and the Qajar dynasty is so well-known that any reader with minimum knowledge of the Iranian history is familiar with it and to repeat it will entail nothing but boredom. Two Qajar figures who had a significant role in the Iranian history need to be mentioned: the first one deserves to be blessed but the second one deserves to be cursed. The former is Hajj Mohammad Hussein Khan, minister to Fath-Ali Shah who helped develop the city and built Sadr, New Haft-Dast, and Khwaju Chahar-Bagh (four-garden) and in his reign the city regained its previous flourish, and the latter is Zel al-Sultan under whose reign the city and whatever remained from the great figures were destroyed So that nobody wished to govern it.

Isfahan Market

The Isfahan Bazaar is to be taken as a clear-cut example of the urban manifestation in the course history. Originally, it was constructed in the southeast wing of Friday Mosque and Kohneh Square but various arcades and rooms were later added to it. The history of the bazaar dates back to the 11th century, but the present remnant dates from the Safavid period during which the Qaysariya Bazaar was constructed in the north wing of Naghsh-i-Jahan Square, and was developed as a substitute for the Kohneh Square.

The Great Bazaar of Isfahan extends to the Friday Mosque and then to Bazaar Oryan (naked bazaar) called Bazaar Nezamiya. Its architectural structure is characterized by abundant historical monuments which lend cultural significance to it.

One of these architectural complexes is composed of the mausoleum of Harun and adjacent school resembling that of the Seljuq Sultan Mohammad called Haji Hasan’s school. Zolfaghar Mosque of 1561 A.D., Sadr Mosque, Mmavard school and Karevansaras (inns) including Gholshand and a number of bathrooms as remnants of the Safavid era.

Frescos on the portal of the Qaysariya Bazaar and its muqarnas (pendentive) ceiling testify its long history. The frescos portraying wars of Shah Abbas I as well as the European people survived until the early present century.

Its west wing, nowadays, portrays the hunting-ground of Shah Abbas I and the upper tilework on the portal portrays a hunter.

Once there was a building called Negar Khaneh on both sides of the Qaysariya portal but it was destroyed in the late Safavid period.

The Isfahan Bazaar is unique in strength and beauty. The most important and great Chahar-Su (crossroad) is the one located in central Bazaar and is a remnant of Shah Abbas l. It is nowadays the market place for various types of hand printed or calico cloths. Historical evidence indicates that Qaysariya Bazaar, among the most splendid areas of Isfahan of the Safavid dynasty, was allocated to jewelers and lathe operators.

 

Engraving(ghalamzani)

The engraved metal handcrafts especially copper dishes are marketed in the form of precious and premium artworks produced by the demanding efforts of engraving craftsmen. It is one of the best-known and traditional industries that is of significance among the Iranian handcrafts.

Maestro Mahmud Dehnavi was a great engraver who mingled delicacy and skill and created superb works to be later housed in different museums.

Ostad Mahmoud Farshchian was born in the city of Isfahan in the year 1929. His father,a rug merchant, was an art aficionado who instilled a love for the arts in his son. Young Mahmoud showed an interested in studying art quite early in life and studied under the tutelage of Haji Mirza-Agha Emami and Isa Bahadori for several years. Farshchian left for Europe, where he studied the works of the great western masters.

Farshchian is the founder of his own school in Iranian painting, which adheres to classical form while making use of new techniques to broaden the scope of Iranian paintings.

Achieved through lengthy years of hand practices, this industry is exclusive to highly green-thumb Isfahani craftsmen. Master craftsmen translate their talents and experiences by hammer and elegant engraving tools into charming patterns on metal objects such as plates, vases, large trays, picture frames, cigarette packs and many other thing which are marketed to national and international customers in the shops adjacent to the Naghsh-i-Jahan Square and Chahar Bagh Street.

 

Abbasi Hotel

Composed of Chahar Bagh or Sultani School and Shah Mother’s inn, the complex was constructed under Sultan Hossein Safavi. It is recognized as the last example of a huge complex constructed in the safavid period. It dates back to 1722-1732 A.D. In 1961, it was turned into Abbasi Hotel, a hotel which dazzles the eyes of every viewer.

Originally a caravanserai, the Abbasi Hotel is composed of a mosque, a bazaar, and a caravanserai. It was commissioned by Sultan Hussein Safavi in 1700 C.E. The caravanserai was ruined after the invasion of the afghans to be later restored in Qajar era. In 1960’s, in a state of ruin, it was purchased by the iran insurance Company that totally restored this old hotel. In 1966, the hotel was decorated by a group of 150 artists under the supervision of Mehdi Ebrahimian. In 1972, the insurance company decided to develop the hotel. The Abbasi Hotel indicates the art of pre-Islamic and post-Islamic periods.

The major parts of the hotel include interior hall, Naghsh e Jahan hall, the entrance hall of the restaurant, Ali Qapu Hall, Chihil Sutun restaurant, Zarrin hall, and the new building of the guesthouse.

About Abbasi Hotel, Professor Pope writes, “The interior decorations are indicative of the sublime arts in Isfahan. They are enchanting and well-worked. It was an art which declined after a period of flourish.”

 

Maryam church

Constructed in 1610 A.D, the church was the extension of Hacoup Church as the first Armenian church in Isfahan which was constructed in 1606 A.D. It is currently located in the northwest wing of Mary Church courtyard. Hacoup is deeply revered by the Armenians as it is believed to be the first church which was constructed pursuant to the influx of the Armenians to Isfahan. The historical inscription characterizing the church belongs to its founder Khwaja Avdick, a famous Armenia merchant. During the reign of Shah Abbas I, he was a well-known silk merchant who commissioned the Church and funded its golden and silvery lights and candles, Persian boards and portraits and paid for the whole costs of the Church in his lifetime.

Two grand Venetian portraits brought as souvenirs by khwaja Ghorghagh, an Armenia merchant, are hung on the interior wall of the Church.

 

Minar Junban (Shaking Minaret)

Amu Abdullah’s shrine is characterized by a grand marble stone carved with the Qur’anic Sura of “Yasin” in rough Thulth Script and its south wing with “ It suffices when death is the preacher.” It is interesting to note that when one minaret is shaken, the other one shakes too. The shake is also transferred to other parts of the monument so that when a bowl of water is put on the grand stone in one of the Iranian arches, one can observe the effect on the water level, too.

Minaret of Ali mosque is built in the “Meydan-e-Ghadim” of Isfahan. It is a Saljughi era building. The decoration on this minaret is brickwork, like other buildings of the same period. “Haroon-e-Velayat” shrine is one of the holy pilgrimage of Isfahan and it is built during the region of Shah Esmaeel Safavi I .

 

Si-o-Se- Pol Bridge (Allah Verdi Khan Bridge)

With 300 meters long and 14 meters wide, the bridge is the longest one over the Zayandeh Rood. The bridge was built during the reign of Shah Abbas I in 1611 A.D. under the supervision of his warlord Allah Verdi Khan. It is one of the architectural masterpieces and grandeurs of the Safavid era. Its high walls protected caravans against wind and the rooms as well as other places were used as shelter and place of rest for travelers. Historically, the bridge is identified by various titles as “Si-o-Se Chishmeh” , “Chahar Bagh” , “Pol-i-Shah Abbasi” , “Zayandeh Rood” and also “Julfa”.

Nowadays, Allah Verdi Khan Bridge, due to its extraordinary glamour and beauty and the fact that it links two sections of Chahar Bagh Street (both upper and lower ones) is to be considered as the main tourist magnet while retaining its traditional road-way role.

According to the tourists who visited Isfahan in the Safavid era, the festival of water-sprinkling as a traditional Iranian festival, was held close to the bridge. Its proximity to the Julfa district had allowed Isfahani Armenians to perform their “Khaj Shoyan” (hair-washing) ceremony near it.

 

Khaju Bridge

At the order of Shah Abbas ll, the monument was erected in the original site of the bridge in the Timurid Era in  1666 A.D. Its exteriors are decorated with highly fine plasterworks and ornaments and a special place was built in its central building named “Biglar Beigi” for the sojourn of the Safavid kings. The bridge has 24 arches behind which lies a wooden dam for water reservation, causing the bridge to serve as a dam.

Believed by many to be the largest bridge over the Zayandeh Rood, it displays special manifestation when flooding. The bridge is a public recreation site. Originally called “Pol-i-Shahi” (Royal Bridge), it is identified by various names such as “Hasan Khan Turkman” , “Pol-i-Hasanabad” , “Pol-i-Shiraz” and “Pol-i-Baba Rukn ad-Din.

It is currently called Khawju because it is situated in the vicinity of Khwaju district. It is about 133m long and 12m wide. In its central part lie a number of royal residential rooms and decoration halls.

Among the advantages of this bridge over others, apart from its distinctive architectural features, is the existence of many tilework ornamentations as well as colored tileworks on the monuments of the Biglar Beigi over the Bridge.

 

Vank Church

The Vank Church is the most magnificent church of Julfa district in Isfahan in terms of architecture and ornamentation, which was built on the debris of an old church, built in 1605 A.D. during the reign of Shah Abbasll.

The interior and walls are decorated with oil paintings and gold plating in Indian and Italian Styles, but other ornamentations are Iranian in style such that the gold plated ceiling and the interior of its dome are decoratively unique in their kind.

Meaning church in Armenian language, the church was built in 1645 A.D.

It is characterized by its splendid belfry in the front part of its main entrance. Its historical Armenian inscription is decorated with the names of Shah Sultan Hussein Safavi, archbishop and its founder, dating back to 1702 A.D. Highly unique and charming combination and collection of the Iranian ornamentation and architecture with European style are among its unique features.

 

Hasht Behesht Palace

As a small palace, the monument stands in the center of a garden known as Bagh-i-bulbul (Nightingale Garden) which was built in 1686 A.D. during the reign of Shah Suleiman. It occupies a special place among the unique places of the Safavid Era. It is decorated with many marble pieces and tile works designed by symmetrical portraits of various animals and birds. The monument and its garden survived until the late Qajar era, but now nothing is left of the palace except a building.

Chardin used to reside in Isfahan during the reign of Shah Suleiman and had frequently visited the monument.

He writes:

“I have vowed to give a description of one of the talars of a garden. That is called “Emarat-i-Behesht” (Paradise Building). All its ceilings are decorated with fine mosaics. The walls and piers are two-storied and surrounded by corridors and halls. The corridors, containing hundreds of chambers are the most pleasant places all across the world each of which is lit up by a hole which affords illumination. The light is in harmony with the recreations for which the complexes have been established.

 

Chihil Sutun Palace

In an area of 67000sqm called Chihil Sutun Garden, a building by the same name was erected during the reign of Shah Abbas I. However, the complex was later developed into a palace during the reign of Shah Abbas ll for official reception of Safavid rulers. The Construction of the palace dates back to 1667 A.D. There is a combination of Iranian, Chinese and Western architecture. As the pillars are reflected in the frontal pool, the palace is identified by its present name. However, it is mostly believed that the word “Chihil” (forty) in “Chihil Sutun” is an indication of polarity, showing the multitude of the pillars supporting the structure. The palace was the government house in the Qajar era whose adjoining rooms were used for administrative affairs. The palace is estimated to be 75*48f in size and 25m in height. The frontal fountain lies in an area of 110*16m possessing a stone spring surrounded by the statues of four stone lions on its four corners.

Three of its painted rooms are decorated with portraits of Shah Abbas I. Other miniatures are clear examples of Reza Abbasi’s art works and rank among the most significant parts of the monument.

Some fundamental developments were made in the structure of the palace during the reign of Shah Abbas ll when the Talar-i-Ayeneh (Mirror Hall), Talar-i-Hijdah Sutun  (eighteen-pillar Hall), two large northern and southern rooms of the Talar-i-Ayeneh, adjoining iwans to the royal entrance room and the large frontal fountain of the Talar (a columnar porch form usually located at ground level) along with its ornamentations were added.

Three of its painted rooms are embellished with portraits of Shah Abbas I. Other miniatures are clear examples of Reza Abbasi’s art works and rank among the most significant parts of the monument.

The walls are decorated with large mirrors, colorful glasses and marvelous paintings. The door and windows are fretted and inlaid.

 

Ali Qapu

Ali Qapu is believed by some to be an Ottoman word meaning Great Gate while while other attribute it to an altered word of “ Ali’s Qapu” meaning Ali’s gate because Shah Abbas had installed one of the doors of Imam Ali’s Holy Shrine (AS) in the entrance of the palace. In the Safavid era it was identified by different names such as “Dowlat-Khaneh Mobarak Naghsh-i-Jahan” and “Qasr-i-Dowlat Khaneh. The exiting plasterworks are among the most splendid examples of plasterworks which despite considerable damages, still retain their glory and grandeur. The combination of these with artistic miniatures by Reza Abbasi and the unique design of the complex leave deep impact on the visitors.

A unique monument of the Safavid era, the Ali Qapu Palace was commissioned by Shah Abbas I in the first quarter of the 17th century in the west wing of Naghsh-i-Jahan Square. The Palace was used for official reception.

“The Sound Room” or “Music Hall” characterized by acoustic plasterworks for natural reflection or reverberation of songs is a must-see. Plasterworks of the Music Hall were completely designed in the shape of various dishes such as bowl, pitcher, and so on which, besides their ornamental quality, serve natural acoustic purposes.

As a five-storied building, it is decorated with precious murals and plasterworks by master artists including Reza Abbas, a well-known painter during the reign of Shah Abbas I.

The Ali Qapu Palace was used for official reception by the successors of Shah Abbas I as well. However, some measures were taken to further the decorations. The construction of Hijdah Sutun iwan (a vaulted portal opening onto a courtyard) on the third floor which ended under Shah Abbas ll is one such construction measure. The iwan faces Naghshe-i-Jahan square and is characterized by wooden pillars and fences and a copper pound in the center. The iwan was used as platform by the Safavid rulers for watching military parades or polo games at festivals.

 

Imam Mosque

A monument dating from the Safavid period, the Abbassi Friday Mosque is deemed by many to be the most splendid mosque in grandeur of architecture and abundance of ornaments hitherto built in Iran. Located in the southern wing of Naghshe-i-Jahan Square, It is identified by various names including The Shah Mosque. The construction dates back to 19th, April 1916. It was started during the implementation of the third phase of building Naghsh-i-Jahan Square at the order of Shah Abbas the Great and ended in 1637 during the reign of Shah Safi.

The Imam Mosque is characterized by four iwans in an area of 100*130m, regardless of the infrastructure of the entrance. Two thin minarets of the southern iwan are 45 meters high. The 52 meter grand dome of the mosque is exposed between two internal and external layers with 14 meters high and a diameter of 25 meters. Despite the huge dimensions of the mosque and the complex structure, it has been most symmetrically constructed.

The location of the mosque in the south wing of Naghsh-i-Jahan Square and its amazing manifestation are obvious indications of its vital role. The motive of Shah Abbas the Great for constructing the mosque along with Qaysariya Bazaar, Naghsh-i-Jahan Square and the adjacent stores was to transfer the business center of the city, recently identified as the capital, from the Kohneh Square and old bazaar to a new site.

For this reason, the construction of the mosque was commenced pursuant to the purchase of the neighboring residential houses in 1611 A.D. Badi al-Zamani Tuni is said to have developed the structural plan and its portal inscription creator was Ali Akbar Isfahani, an architect and engineer.

One of the interesting thing which catch the attention of every viewer in the mosque is the symmetry of the entrance with that of the Naghsh-i-Jahan Square. The axis of the square is approximately concordant with the four main directions and the mosque designers have changed its internal section by 45 degrees to southwest so that the direction of qibla (the point toward which Muslims turn to pray, esp. the Ka’ba, or House of God, at Mecca) could be correct.

To remove the mismatch between the entrance and internal section of the mosque, a winding patch has been built between the entrance and the northern iwan which denies every visitor of turning the axis after entering the monument.

Its glamour and beauty, regardless of the talent employed in its architecture and grandeur, owes to the unique plasterworks.

The portal, a masterpiece of the Safavid plasterwork, is composed of top mosaic tiles characterized by various arabesque and inscription calligraphed by renowned Safavid calligraphers.

Other ornaments are further developed by using seven colored mud mosaics within which varying steaks of blue have been given preference over others. The quality of the building materials and methods of patterning the mosaic tiles of the entrance iwan are superior to those in the interior of the mosque.

Among the parts completed in 1963 A.D is the silver-glided portal of the mosque which is decorated with ornamental patterns and Persian poems in Nastaliq calligraphy.

 

Sheikh Lutfullah Mosque

Situated in the east wing of the Naqsh-i-Jahan Square, the mosque is among the fabulous masterpieces of the 17th century architecture and tileworks.

The monument was originally built on the debris of an old mosque at the order of the Safavid Shah Abbas I in 1617 A.D and was named after the prayer leader, Sheikh Lutfullah Missi Ameli.

Unique mosaic toleworks in the interior and exterior of its dome have given an outstanding status to the monument among other Islamic art and architecture works.

The mosque suffered damages in the Qajar era. Most of its portal and dome tiles as well as the golden perimeter of the dome were destroyed. The portal and dome were restored during the years 1928-1936 A.D. The restoration of the wonderful rectangular pool in front of the mosque is also among further reconstruction measures carried out in 1937-1939 A.D. The floor of its dome, once covered with plaster, is now stone-covered and iron windows have replaced the wooden ones to give more light to its underground.

Symmetrical sizes, powerful design and impeccable construction of the composing parts of the mosque are amazingly inimitable.

The mosque is among few Iranian mosque which lack minaret, which is itself an indication of its uniqueness.

According to the inscription on its mihrab, Mohammad Reza Ostad Hussein Bannaye Isfahani was the architect of such a unique mosque in which inscriptions bye Ali Reza Abbasi and Bagher Banna of Sheikh Bahaee’s and Sheikh Lotfollah’s poems are obvious art works. Its dome is among the most splendid ones in Iran whose interior and exterior are decorated with precious mosaic tiles. The interior of the dome is characterized by a marvelous inscription pattern designed by Ali Reza Abbasi, a martyred calligrapher of the Safavid period. The interior ornamentation fully characterized by fine mosaic tiles makes an enchanting sight.

 

Naghsh-i-Jahan Square – Iran Easy Tourism

Presently called Imam Square, the Naghsh-i-Jahan Square was Constructed during the region of Shah Abbas I in Southern Isfahan with a view to developing the city and which gradually took the place of the Kohneh square. It is believed by many tourists to be one of the superb
squares all across the world containing a unique set of historical monuments. The name is derived from a famous garden of similar name which had existed there prior to the emergence of the square.

The square which is rectangular stands in an area of 500*165m. Except for the monuments all around the square, it is surrounded by two-storied stalls, the ground floor ones are in the form of chambers which chiefly serve as market place for handicrafts and souvenirs the square was of such paramount economic significance that each corner was allocated to a particular profession.

The importance of the square, apart from its beauty and historical values, lies in the unique monuments surrounding it; the Imam Mosque in south, Sheikh Lutfullah Mosque in the east, Ali Qapu Palace in the west and Qaysariya portal in the north, all of which have conduced to the vital political, and socio-economic role of the square in the course of history. the square was used for festivals, military parades and sport
competitions such as polo and shooting in the Safavid era. Nowadays the stone gates in the north and south for polo conjure up its socio-cultural significance in the past.

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