Located on a plateau, in center of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Residence of Moslems, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians who have lived together in peace and prosperity. Birth place of grand theologists, numerous artists, poets, and masters in different fields of science and knowledge.
Manifestglorious fine arts and great varieties of handicrafts. Center of the most outstanding and prestigious universities of Iran. Located at the edge of desert, but the beautiful Zayandeh Rood River flows through the city and has given beauty and prosperity to the city. Centre of beautiful fruits gardens, a marvelous green paradise at the edge of desert. A city with several public gardens and parks. Centre of Iranian heavy and semi heavy industries such as steel mill complexes,petrochemical, factories, oil refineries, and 40 percent of textile factories of our country.A city , in which you can visit tourist minded and hard working people in various fields of knowledge, science, and experience, with wonderful sense of humor, which is famous all over Iran. A must destination for domestic and international tourism. Some of wonders of the world can be seen in this city, and finally a city which can not be introduced through words. It must be visited in order to gain the most unforgettable memories. So many people have visited Isfahan and they have fallen in love with Isfahan. Their judgments and feelings can be seen through their valuable books.
Isfahan province is located at the centre of Islamic Republic of Iran. Total area of Isfahan province is 106179 square kilometers, about 6.25 percent of whole Iran ’s area.
Regarding population, it is third in our country. The city is located in the lush Zayandeh Roud River plain of foothills of the Zagros Mountains Range . Isfahan is about 1580 meters high from the sea level. It has a mild climate. The average rain fall is about 60 to 100 millimeters.
Isfahan is located at the edge of desert. Desert is situated at the east and north of Isfahan .
The Zagrous Range of mountains is located at the west and south of Isfahan . Zayandeh Roud River is the main source and element of Isfahan ’s development and beauty. The river rises from eastern slopes of Zagros Range of mountains.
Zayandeh Roud River plus rich soil of Isfahan ’s plain has created wonderful opportunity for agricultural activities and fruitful orchards.
As mentioned on the east of Isfahan waste Lander deserts located. There are three types of deserts. The first kind is called Dasht, which has fertile soils at the hillsides. The second is called Kavir with a salt- slime surface and the third is called Lout, which is dry and inhabitable wasteland.
The hot desert is empty of any nomadic activity. Deserts have hot and dry days and cool and cold nights.
The climate in the west of Isfahan is completely different. Long cold winters and short cool summers. High slopes of the west such as Zardkuh are covered with deep snow and hundreds of water streams, which are original sources of Zayandeh Roud River are flowing at mountains hills.
ZAYANDEH ROUD RIVER
Great civilizations have grown up beside rivers; Zayandeh Rud River is a vital lifeline, which runs through Isfahan . It has created beauty and prosperity for the city. The river is originated from Zagros Mountains, from the west of Isfahan . It flows from various springs of Zagres Mountains , passes through hundreds of villages, towns and finally it is ended in Gavkhuni swamp. It is the most important central river in Iran . The river is about 270 Km. Long. Zayandeh Rud means “The life giving river”. The city of Isfahan is located at the edge of desert. The average rainfall is about 100 millimeters per year. Beauty, gardens, parks and all greeneries of Isfahan have taken life from this river.
As mentioned beautiful springs of river appear in Chahar Mahal – e- Bakhtiary province on the west of Isfahan . Springs join to each other and streams of water flow through mountainous era, facing to the southeast. Almost 4/000/000 people of two provinces depend on Zayandeh Rud. Springs of Caroon River , which is one of the largest in Iran are located on the same area. Zayandeh Rud is not sufficient for such a daily increased population; therefore it has been linked to Caroom. Huge tunnels have been constructed at the bottom of mountains in order to divert Caroon water to Zayandeh Rud.
The main sources of Caroon River are located on the western slope of Kuhrang range.
Tunnel construction for this purpose has started since Safavid dynasty to enlarge Zayndeh Rud. During winter and spring seasons the river was stronger, but in summer the river was weakened. The Kuhrang Dam was built in 1971 which is very vital for the river.
In the 17th century six artificial canals were made in Isfahan city, with more than 30 branches, which distributed among not only towns, villages, but also in different quarters of city. These canals were named Madies. Some parts of the old Madies have survived, but major parts have vanished due to illogical urban expansion.
At the present time more towns and villages receive Zayandeh Rud River , through pipelines, such as Yazd , Kashan, … .
KUHE SOFEH ( SOFEH MOUNTAIN )
The small range of Sofeh Mountain is located at the south west of Isfahan . The highest peak is 2257 meters. There are two small springs of water in Sofeh Mountain . On the left side of the Sofeh there are a series of hills. Isfahan to Shiraz road passes through these hills. The main Sofeh Mountain is about 590 meters high from ground level.
Sofeh and its surrounding hills have converted to a beautiful park which covers at least 100 hectares. A wonderful panoramic view of metropolitan city of Isfahan can be seen from the Sofeh Mountain especially at night.
Sofeh Mountain is the closest slope for a large number of Isfahan ’s citizens who practice mountain climbing every early morning, even before sun rises.
HISTORY OF ISFAHAN
Isfahan is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, an unforgettable international tourism destination popular all of over the world, an encyclopedia of Iranian and Islamic civilization, locally famous as half of the world. Isfahan presents the real Persian character, the most glorious in historical and architectural wealth. Monuments in Isfahan are great examples of our art and architecture.
Isfahan’s ancient history is not clear and our knowledge about the mentioned period is limited. There are legends about ancient Isfahan, goes back to king Jamshid and king – Kavous from the legendary dynasty.
During Parthians and Sassanians the city has been considered as assembly place for armies. In fact armies were sent to different fronts of ancient Persia from this point.
During Elamate period it was one of the most important cities of Persia. During Achamenid kingdom was called Gaba, famous as the royal summer recreational resort. The name Gaba was changed to Jay.
During Parthians it was ruled by prominent sovereigns and during the Sasanian period crown princes were stationed in Isfahan in order to learn statecraft.
During Sasanian kingdom the city was famous as “Shahrestan”.
Some of historians believe that Jay was not a city but a strong fortress another important district of the original city was called Yahoudiyeh (the Jewish city) which was close to Shahrestan.
Yazdgerd 1, a king from Sassanian dynasty was married to a Jewish wife, allowed a large group of Jews to settle in Isfahan. Their residential district was called as “Yahoudieh”
Some of historians believe that Jews were settled in Isfahan about 600 years BC. Yahoudieh was later called Jubareh and it is still residential district of some of Jews.
Isfahan has been expanded and the two districts are two parts of the metropolitan city of Isfahan.
POST ISLAMIC PERIOD IN ISFAHAN
Fortunately there are more informations regarding post Islamic Isfahan. In 643 AD the city was invaded by Ummayads, and then Abbasids ruled in Isfahan until 931 AD.
Al- Jibal was one of Arab Caliphate provinces and Isfahan was the capital of this province. During 10th century the city was ruled by princes who belonged to Fars and Iraq. The Ziarids and Buyids were the most prominent rulers of this area.
Mardavij revolted against the Abbasids and announced the independence of Gorgan and Mazandaran. He expended his domain of independence to Isfahan. Mardavij was faithful to the ancient Persian traditions. The Seddeh festival was held on the banks of Zayandeh Rud in 935. After assassination of Mardavij the Ziarid ruling era was ended.
Isfahan and Buyid Dynasty
Soon after Mardavij’s death, Isfahan was ruled by Buyides. The Buyids’s period was one of the most outstanding periods in Isfahan. In 945 Ahmad one of the Buyidi’s ruler, invaded Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasids. During Buyids period Isfahan was remarkably developed and some of Iranian arts were flourished.
The Shiite customs and traditions were encouraged and pilgrimages to the holy places were developed, magnificent buildings were constructed in Isfahan during Buyid period especially glorious mosques were constructed. These mosques were ornamented magnificently.
The Seljuk Toghrol Beg from Seljuk
In 1047 Toghrol Beg from Seljuk dynasty made Isfahan as the Capital. Soon Isfahan was highly developed and was converted to a great city. During 12 years of Toghrol Beg ruling period a new expanded and prosperous city Isfahan was born.
The city was further developed under Thoghrol’s successors. Alb Arsalan and Malek Shah took advantage of learned vizier (minister) named Khaje Nezam Al – Molk.
Great magnificent buildings were constructed during Seljuk rulers; in fact Seljuk and Safavid dynasties highly developed Isfahan.
The congregational Mosque (Jameh) has been considered as one of the wonders of the world. The last Seljuk ruler was defeated Ala al Din Takish from Kharazm Shah Dynasty, a dynasty which survived for a short time.
Mongol to Timurid
After Seljuk dynasty the city declined and lost its importance Mongol, Timurid rulers in Esfahan. When Mongol invaded Iran a great battle took place on the suburb of Isfahan in 1228 and the city was invaded too. A significant part of Isfahan’s population was killed and a prominent part of population had to leave Isfahan. Many glorious monuments were destroyed and the most important city of Iran was converted into ruins, but some of buildings survived.
The Barbar Mongols who invaded Isfahan were highly influenced by Iranian and Islamic culture. Some of these Mongols were so deeply changed, who started to redevelop the city again.
Oljaitu the second Il- Khanid ruler developed the city reasonably. Il- Khanids ruled for short period and they were succeeded by Injuid and Mozaffarid. They were vanished by Tamerlane’s invasions which happened in 1387. More than 75 thousands of Isfahan’s population was slaughtered. The invaders made pyramids by head of killed people. Fortunately several buildings were not destroyed. Many artists, masters and craftsmen of Isfahan were sent to Samarghand to work for Tamerlane who created some of the most glorious buildings.
In the first half of 15th century Timurids lost a great part of Iran, by two Turkmen tribes Qara- Quyunlu (the Black sheep) and Aq- Quyunlo (the white sheep). The two mentioned tribes ruled in Isfahan , for a very short time in 15th century.
In 1499 Ismail who was a relative of white sheep (Grand son of Uzun Hassan of white sheep) came to power and established the Safavid dynasty. The most glorious era of Isfahan development was begun by Safavids.
SHAH ABBAS AND THE EXTRA ORDINARY ERA OF CONSTRUCTION IN ISFAHAN
Shah Abbas the great is the golden name in Isfahan development and flourishment. He chose Isfahan as his capital in 1598. About 42 years of his unforgettable life was spent for the splendor of Isfahan .
New urban planning on the south west of Seljukid city highly enhanced the beautification of Isfahan . He was grown up in Harat which was the great cultural city of Iran . The beauty of arts and architecture of Herat created Shah Abbas innovation for further development of Iran , specially his new capital city called Isfahan . Even when he was a young prince highly appreciated arts and architecture. He showed a great interest in calligraphy too.
In 1587 Shah Abbas was crowned as the new king of Iran . Soon he eliminated many of his influential friends and enemies. In 1591 he appointed a dynamic learned vizier (minister) called Hatim Beik Ordubadi. This man carried out a lot of constructive reforms in Iran and Iran was highly dominated by the Shah and his government. So the Shah controlled and ruled over all parts of Iran .
Isfahan in Safavid Period
As an illiterate Shah he learned a lot of knowledge, and was interested in knowing more and more about Iran and foreign countries. He was informed about foreign countries and how these countries were developed. He took advantage of opportunities and welcome foreign delegations in order to know more about world development. He was interested in other religions, especially Christians. One of his main hobbies was going to streets and society as an ordinary man in order to acquire view points of citizens regarding development of capital city and Iran .
One of the negative characteristics of Shah Abbas was superstitions. In 1598 selected Isfahan as the capital and removed the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan .
Isfahan ‘s geographical location and Zayandeh Rood River were main factors of Shah’s decision. The powerful empire of Iran deserved a new magnificent capital.
Under the innovative Shah’s decisions, soon Isfahan was converted to one of the greatest cities of the world. Isfahan became a desirable metropolitan city. Many Iranians migrated to the capital, especially tradesmen, artists, architects and able craftsmen. A large number of Armenians were ordered by the Shah to migrate to Isfahan . A beautiful village located on the south western side of Zayandeh Rood was selected as new residential site for Armenians and was named Julfa. Armenians were skilled tradesmen and technical masters. The fame of Isfahan attracted several foreign delegations and travelers.
SUCCESSORS OF SHAH ABBAS
After Shah Abbas the Iranian empire declined, except in a short period during the time of Shah Abbas the second. Decline was witnessed much more in Iran and not in Isfahan .
The fall of Iranian Empire
During the reign of the last Safavid king Shah Sultan Hossein, Iran was torn apart.
Life was very difficult for common people. They had to pay unjust taxes Rebellions appeared in different parts of Iran . Mahmood Afghan who controlled Sistan and south Khorasan advanced to areas near capital, finally the approached Isfahan and besieged the capital.
In 1722 a battle took place in Golnabad. Afghan troops were about 25000 and Iranian troops more than 50000. Afghans invaded Isfahan and massacred a great numbers of Isfahan citizens. At the same time Peter the Great of Russia invaded northern part of Iran . On the other hand Ottomans, the traditional enemies of Safavid invaded the west part of Iran . The empire was disintegrated under inefficient Shah Sultan Hossein.
Mahmud’s short period was faced with a lot of problems. Russians in the north and Ottomans in the west were major issues for Mahmud. Tahmasb the second proclaimed a king. He revolted with the help of people who considered Afghans as Barbars.
Mahmud massacred several princes, relatives of Shah and people of Isfahan . Mahmud became completely mad. Because of Mahmud’s matness his cousin Ashraf took power in Isfahan .
At the same time Tahmasb Quli came to power in Khorasan and was destined as Nader Shah.
In 1729 a great battle occurred between Nader and Ashraf. Ashraf was defeated. Nader chose Mashhad as the capital. Nader and Karim Khan Zand were prominent rulers for a short time.
QAJAR AND DARK PERIOD IN ISFAHAN
Karim Khan Zand moved the capital to Shiraz and during Qajar dynasty Tehran was the capital of Iran. During Qajar the Fathali Shah the oldest son Zel- al Sultan, was appointed as rulers and governors of Isfahan. The city experienced its darkest period during Zel – al Sultan. This crazy governor sold everything and increased taxes which were unbearable for peaple. Magnificent monuments were destroyed. No attention was paid to art and architecture. The sun of development and prosperity was set during Qajar dynasty.
A great part of Isfahan population migrated to Tehran and other cities. During Pahlavi dynasty principal historic buildings were restored. The great mistakes were made in urban planning. Construction of new streets highly damaged historic axes of Isfahan. So, many of historic buildings, especially old houses and textures were ruined in order to create new streets. The old axe and texture of Isfahan was seriously damaged in the historic city, not only by the government, but also people of Isfahan. Many of educated people in foreign countries were highly influenced by western and architecture which was not appropriate for Isfahan. Construction of new houses and buildings in the centre of old city deeply infected old characteristics.
ARTS AND ISFAHAN
Rich art and architecture has been one of the prominent brilliant characteristics of Iranian during the long life of Iran. Art and architecture has faced several ups and downs, but has always existed and during certain periods art and architecture has been highly flourished. From 1598 to 1722 is the peak point of art and architecture. Art and architecture in Isfahan have developed in three main branches.
First glorious architecture with different forms and styles second varieties of wonderful fine arts for decoration and ornamentation of monuments and the third utilitarian forms of handicrafts.
We would like to draw your attention to the brief description regarding architecture
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN ISFAHAN
Isfahan is one of the most spectacular cities of Iran from the view point of tourist attractions. There are magnificent monuments, which belong to different periods, fantastic tile- works, the outstanding architecture and ornamentations of the mosques and glorious palaces, the unique Naghsh-e- Jahan Square, old colorful houses, fascinating bazaars, minarets, beautiful natural attractions of the Zayandeh Rood river, pigeon towers, wonderful old bridges and tourist minded people.
NAGHSH-E- JAHAN (IMAM SQUARE)
Nagsh means “pattern” and Jahan means “world”. This square is the most beautiful and magnificent sight of Isfahan. Several descriptions have been written about this square (Maidan). The square is 510 meters long and 163 meters wide and the arena of it is about 80000 square meters.
The first largest square is located in Beijing (Tionanmen square) and the Imam square is the second largest historical plaza in the world. Four of the most majestic monuments are located around the square.
The plaza has been considered and registered as a universal heritage by UNESCO. When the capital was transferred to Isfahan, Shah Abbas the great ordered to plan and construct a new axis for Isfahan’s development. The new square was constructed on the site of a garden. Ostad (master) Ali Akbar Isfahani, the great architect planned the square. The new masterpiece of the world was built in north – south direction. The great Imam was built on the south, the unique Sheikh Lotffolah mosque on the east, the Ali Qapu palace on the west and the grand magnificent bazaar on the north. The entrance bazaar is called Geysarieh portal. The two stories arcaded structure has joined these monuments. Main symbols of three powers created an extra ordinary site (the political, the religious and the trade and business powers in a very close neighborhood).
Originally, there were 12 gates and entrances to the Maidan (square). The central part of Maidan was used as polo ground in evenings. In mornings peddlers sold and exchanged their goods. Every week on certain day Peasants from Isfahan suburb sold their goods and products. In fact the square was used for different porpoises, such as religious events too.
Shops around the square were used for different activities. Round the square was planted with beautiful rows of trees and artificial water canals.
At night the square was lit with more than 50000 oil lamps. A pair of polo goalposts is located at either end of north and south of square. The ruling authorities and specially the Shah were interested in polo games. Every evening the square was used for playing polo games except on special religious days. Now shops of ground floor are used for selling and producing various kinds of handicrafts. Even today the square is one of the most important places in Isfahan. Millions of domestic and limited number of international tourist visits the Maidan.
CONGREGATIONAL MOSQUE (MASJED JAME)
In Islamic countries, in every city there is a congregational mosque. In fact the most important mosque in each city is called the Jame mosque. Friday sermon or prayer is recommended to Shiites and congregational mosques in towns and cities are used for the Friday sermons. In metropolitan cities vast areas has been allocated for this purpose.
Masjede Jame in Isfahan is the most remarkable mosque in Isfahan. It is an encyclopedia of Iranian and Islamic art and architecture. Step by step development of Iranian art and architecture can be seen in this complex. It takes at least half a day to visit different parts of it. The complex shows various structures from different centuries which date back from 10th century to 18th century.
The oldest part was built on top of a Sassanid fire temple which belonged to Zoroastrians. The first part of the mosque dates back to 8th century. The second mosque or part belonged to 1030.
During Buyid dynasty in 908- 932 one of the oldest sections was built. During Buyid a courtyard surrounded by several prayer- halls were built. In later centuries changes took place in the mosque.
Saheb Ibn Ebad was a learned minister of Buyid dynasty who lived in Isfahan and played a great role for Isfahan development. The Seljuk dynasty expanded the mosque in the 11th century.
The jame mosque shows specifications of Iranian mosques. It has a courtyard and there are four major Eivans (grand- arches). It has one of the largest courtyards in Iran.
Four Eivans are connected by two storey arcades. Eivans date back to 15th to 17th centuries. These arcades are ornamented by tiles. Some of these tiles are glazed and some inglazed. There are two marbles made pools in the courtyard. One of these pools is covered by a structure reminding the holy Kabeh in Mecca. Moslems could practice the Hajj rites, before traveling to Mecca.
THE IMAM MOSQUE (MASJED-E- SHAH)
This mosque is located on the southern side of Maidan. It is the most colorful and largest mosque of the Safavid era. It is an ultra magnificent architecture. First, the portal was built and decorated in 1615, in order to complete the square. The mosque was completed in 1629 but ornamentation of it was finished after the death of Shah Abbas the great.
The decoration of the mosque was finished by the Shah’s successors. The portal was decorated by the most delicate types of tile–mosaic but interior parts have been ornamented by polychrome square tiles. Marbles used in the mosque was taken from marble-mines in Ardestan (120k.m far from Isfahan).
The area of the mosque is about 12264 sq.m. It is a four-eivan mosque. Ornamentation of the portal with tile-mosaic shows examples and patterns.
In front of the portal of the mosque there is a beautiful forecourt which is connected to covered bazaar. This bazaar has surrounded the square. The portal and the forecourt are located on the opposite of Geysarieh portal.
The Moqarnas work of the portal enhances the beauty of the Maidan. There are two lofty minarets on the portal (42 meters high) the arch of the portal is about 27 meters high. The portal was built and decorated to match with the Maidan.
Above the portal there is a tile-mosaic panel, showing two peacocks and a vase of flower. This panel is made of hundreds of pieces of very finely cut and shaped tile.
This panel is one of the most famous parts of the mosque.
The portal is decorated with a great calligraphy in Solth, which dates back to 1616. Alireza Abbasi a great master of calligraphy was the calligrapher. Calligraphy is one of the magnificent styles of ornamentation. Beautiful design is created by alphabets.
Below Ali Reza’s calligraphy there is another piece of calligraphy, made by Mohammad Reza Imami.
The two above mentioned calligraphers are among prominent calligraphers of Safavid period.
The present great door of the mosque is made of silver plates and gold plated and decorated with poems written in another kind of calligraphy called Nastaliq. Even today this type of calligraphy is very popular in Iran, and it is considered as artistic work. The door dates back to 1636 Shah Safi (Safavid period).
The portal of the mosque and the interior courtyard are connected by two corridors, turned about 45 degree turn. As soon as we pass through these two corridors and enter the main courtyard we will be faced to Mecca (Qiblah).
The courtyard is surrounded by four grand Eivans (porches) and two storey arcades. In the centre or the courtyard there is a large pool which shows a beautiful reflection of interior Eivans and arcades .one of the main characteristic of designs which can be seen in different parts of the mosque is beautiful symmetric designs which has enhanced the glory and beauty of the mosque.
SHEIKH LOTFOLLAH MOSQUE
A masterpiece of world’s architecture was built during the reign of Shah Abbas the great. Sheikh Lotfollah was one of Shiite prominent, preachers and clergies who came from Jabal Amel in Lebanon to Isfahan. The Shah Abbas supported him and the Sheikh took up residence in Isfahan and the sheikh Lotfollah mosque was named after him. The mosque was used as a Theological school and also as a royal mosque. It was started to be built in 1602 and it was completed in 1619. First the portal was built to complete the Maidan, to be a part of great Naghshe Jahan Square and it is said it was used as a private mosque for the Shah and royal family. The plan and layout of the mosque is different from other four Eivans Iranian mosques.
It is rather a small mosque without courtyard and minarets, but interior and exterior ornamentations are unbelievable for visitors.
The entrance of the mosque is located opposite of Ali Qapu palace. As soon as we enter the mosque, we pass through a dim- lit corridor which is connected to the sanctuary of the mosque. The mentioned corridor was built for two purposes. First when entering the sanctuary our face will be in direction of Mecca (Qibleh). Second light outside the mosque is sharp and strong, but in the main parts (sanctuary) light is dim. Passing through the dim- lit corridor for few seconds, our eyes will be adjusted to dim light and when we enter the main part, we will be able to see the glory and beauty of the mosque as real as possible.
The mosque is famous for calligraphies made of tile- mosaic, for excellent patterns and designs of tile- mosaic which has decorated major parts of portal, corridor and the main sanctuary. Splendid blue, yellow and cream colours of tile- mosaics are unique all over the world. The dome of sanctuary (Prayer Hall) and polychromes of tile and tile mosaic are splendid. The back- ground of tile mosaic designs is unglazed cream colours bricks. The Solth calligraphy of interior and exterior parts is the best kind in the Islamic world of art and architecture. Calligraphy is written in azure blue with white back- ground.
Ali Reza Abbasi one of the most famous calligraphers of Iran has written major parts of mentioned calligraphy.
The prayer hall was built on a square plan which is converted into a circular base the dome is located on the top of it. The area of the mosque is 1324 square meters, and the dome is 32 meters high and also 12 meters in diameters. There are 16 windows around the lower part of the dome with equal size and shape and equal intervals. These windows reflect day- light to upper parts of dome just like flood- lights.
The prayer- niche of the mosque is decorated with the most delicate tile mosaic. There is a large window located at the north of the mosque, located lower than the drum of dome. This window (aperture) not only circulates the fresh air into the mosque, but also just like flood- light brightens the Mehrab located on the opposite side southern.
There is a winter gallery (Beit-ol-Shata) under the ground level with 16 huge pillars, and simply decorated with mono- colour square tiles and plaster.
There are two small inscriptions in Persian language on two sides of Mehrab’s wall, showing name of the architect saying “a poor humble man begging the mercy of Allah. Ostad Horrian builder from Isfahan”.
The Sheikh Lotfollah mosque is a philosophical complex. Each part of its decoration covers certain religious messages, in fact book must be written regarding facts and message of the ornamentation.
Although Qajar dynasty was a terrible period of decline in art and architecture, but inheritance of Safavid period encouraged many artists of Qajar period to show their innovations through new limited number of art and architecture. In fact Safavid’s glorious heritage highly influenced Qajar period’s artists. They took advantage of all minor opportunities and created their own master pieces of art and architecture. Qajar period’s artists were well aware of developments in Europe too. Regarding tile and tile mosaic, traditional methods were continued, but new ideas and design can be witnessed in their work.
According to Islamic morals mosques and holy places were not allowed to be ornamented with human faces, real shapes of flowers, birds and animals. Therefore related artists took advantage of several objects of nature and created their own imaginary designs, such as Eslimi designs which ornamented Safavid mosques of 17th century,
In Qajar period new forms and shapes were invented, so for the first time designs of people and animals. On the other hand very few buildings were constructed during Qajar dynasty and unfortunately master pieces of Safavid period were neglected too.
People such as very rich merchants and few governors spent a part of their financial possibilities on creation of new houses. The only major exception was Seyed Mosque construction in Isfahan.
It is the largest mosque which was built during Qajar time in Isfahan. This beautiful monument was built at the order of Hojat –al Islam Seyed Mohannad Bagher Shafti. Donations of faithful Moslems and religious payment afforded all necessary expenses of the Seyed Mosque.
The mosque is so large which was not completed at the time of Shafti. After his death, his son and grandson continued the work and completed the mosque.
The Seyed Mosque has a four Eivan plan too. There are entrances on the north and east, but the northern portal is the most magnificent entrance, which opens to the Seyed Street.
Some parts of this mosque are similar to the Imam Mosque of the Naghsh-e Jahan Square. A courtyard, a pool in the centre of the courtyard, and arcades which has been built between four eivans. The most important part of the mosque is the south Eivan, and the southern dome of the sanctuary. The main Mehrab is located in the same sanctuary. Tiles and tile mosaics show bright colours of Qajar period. Plaster work, stucco moldings and paintings are other types of ornamentation used in the mosque.
A mosque was built in the 10th century and was named Masjed-e Jorjir was ruined. On the site of Jorjir mosque a new mosque was planned and constructed. This mosque was called “Hakim Mosque“ and was built in 1656.
This mosque was constructed by Hakim Davoud a physician of Shah Abbas the second court. Hakim Davoud was forced to move to India. He spent last years of his life at the court of Jahan Shah in India.
ALI MOSQUE AND MINARET
The Ali Mosque was originally constructed during Seljuik period but the mosque was renovated during Safavid dynasty.
The beautiful inscription which has decorated the mosque’s portal shows it was rebuilt in 1522. The mosque was named after the first Shiite Imam Ali. It is one of the most important religious buildings in Isfahan. At the corner of mosque’s courtyard there is the Ali Minaret. The minaret was built in early 11th century. It is the highest minaret in Isfahan, about 48 meters high. The minaret’s Shaft shows beautiful geometric designs by brick and at least four Kufic inscriptions.
JULFA AND VANK CATHRDRAL
Shah Abbas the great was an international minded ruler. He received several foreign delegations especially European delegations, trade men, and diplomats. He was interested in news regarding other countries development. He wished to construct an advanced and prosperous country. Due to consultations with foreigners he realized that trade, business and technical affairs could create a more developed capital city and country. Armenians (a branch of Christians) who lived in Julfa of Azerbaijan area were transferred to Isfahan. They were settled in a rich village on the southwestern side of Isfahan.
The village was called Julfa. Plots of lands were distributed among Armenians for agricultural proposes and also for construction of new small Armenian town. Some of Armenians were skilled in Technical affairs, and many in trade and business. Above all these aims, Armenians could develop very friendly atmosphere with Christians.
Soon Julfa became a prosperous community. Armenians were permitted to hold their own religious ceremonies and activities. Moslems were ordered to respect Armenians. If some body made problems for the new minorities he or she was punished severely.
Armenian merchants took trips to several European and Asian destinations for trade and business. Exchange of commodities, new knowledge about other advanced societies of that time was very important for Shah Abbas.
Julfa is now a district of Isfahan, because the city has expanded and has converted many other villages to a city called Isfahan. Armenian merchants were among the richest citizens of Isfahan.
They were allowed to construct their own churches. Merchants had traveled to some of European cities, visited beautiful churches in other countries. Not only collected remarkable information regarding church buildings but also brought European artists and masters to Julfa. Today Julfa is one of the most expensive quarters of Isfahan but Armenians live in different metropolitan cities of Iran.
THE VANK CATHEDRAL
The Vank church is the most beautiful and magnificent church in Iran. It is a master piece of architecture.
Construction of this church started at the time of Shah Abbas the second. Expenses of building were mainly provided by Armenian merchants. Khajeh Stepanusian paid expenses of glorious paintings of interior parts of church. Major parts of these paintings were implemented by local Armenians who had learned the art in European countries and churches. Armenian artists and painters were deeply influenced by Italian and Dutch artists. All paintings are related to old and new testament and about holy life of Jesus Christ.
Lower part of painting was ornamented with beautiful examples of square tile from 1710- 1716.
Fortunately Armenians have preserved this treasury and weekly ceremonies are held in the church.
Next to the church there is a remarkable museum. This rich museum shows a collection of various items dedicated by Armenians to the church.
One of the most important parts of museum shows a series of commands and orders by different rulers, regarding Armenian society and their freedom. Beautiful testaments which have been adorned by fantastic paintings are shown in the museum.
The church’s administrative building is located in the same campus.
There are thirteen churches in Isfahan which belong to Armenians. Other prominent churches are Bethlehem church, St. Mary’s church and St. George’s church.
Armenians speak their own language (Armenian language). All of them speak Farsi too. The Armenian cemetery is also located on the slopes of Sofeh Mountain. They have their own clubs and societies. Like Christians they are free to produce, alcoholic beverages only among Armenian community.
Cathedral & Churches of Isfahan
- Vank Church (St. Hosep Armatiancy): No.58 .-Vank Alley- Nazare Sharghi St.
- St. Bethlehem Church: No.16-Maryam Alley -The Grand Sq. Nazare Sharghi St.
- St. Mary’s Church: No.5-Maryam Alley -The Grand Sq. Nazare Sharghi St.
- St. Jacob Church: Just in the Mary’s Church-.No.5Maryam Alley-The Grand Sq.Nazare Sharghi St .
- St. George’s Church: No.176- Hakim Nezami St.
- St. Gregory Church: No.30-Meydan-e Koochak Alley- Khaghani St.
- St. Serkis Church: No.30- Shahid Mazaheri Alley- Khaghani St.
- St. Nurses Church: No.91-Shahid Montazeri Alley- Sangtarashha District- Hakim Nezami St.ُ
- St. Minas Church: No.81- Tabriziha Quarter- Sangtarashha District- Hakim Nezami St.
- St. Niko Ghayous Church: No.30- Khaje Aabed Alley- Char Souq Alley- Khaghani St.
- St. Catarinian Convent: No.80- Char Souq Alley- Khaghani St.
- St. Hohanense Church: No.1- Char Souq Alley- Khaghani St.
- St. Stefano’s Church: No.29-Yaqub Jan Alley- Nazar-e Gharbi St.
JEWS AND SYNAGOGUES
Jews have settled in Isfahan since ancient time. Isfahan’s Pre-Islamic populations were Jews and Zoroastrians. When Isfahan was invaded by moslem forces in 636 A.D. three kinds solution was proposed to Isfahan population.
1- Convert to Isfahan
2- Keeping their own religion and paying yearly Kharaj (a kind of Tax).
3- Leave the city.
Historians mention a small group of Zoroastrian left to Yazd and central area of Iran. The majority of Zoroastrians, and Jews converted to Islam and limited number preserved their former religions.
Jews are wealthy minority. Similar to Armenians and Zoroastrians, they enjoy their freedom of religion and ceremonies. They have elected their representative to the parliament regularly and take advantage of social privileges. Most of them are working in trade and business.
They have their own synagogues in Isfahan. One of the oldest sections of Isfahan is called Jubarreh, which means “the Jews city”. Most of their synagogues were built in Jubarreh and few of synagogues were constructed in modern parts of Isfahan.
Dr. Honarfar a well-known Isfahanologist mentions that Jews had 20 synagogues in 1970. Most of their synagogues are simply decorated. Every Saturday they hold their weekly religious ceremony at different synagogues.
FIRE TEMPLE (ATESHGAH)
The dominant per – Islamic religion in Iran was Zoroastrianism. Central towns and even villages show pre – Islamic Fire Temples which were respected by Zoroastrian. One of these Fire Temples was built on the top of a hill which is more than one hundred meters high, quite close to the shaking Minarets.
The temple is surrounded by pre Islamic ruins, made of huge sun dried bricks. Probably the surrounding buildings were used by Zoroastrian priests and pilgrims. From the top of the hill a wonderful view of Isfahan’s gardens and Zayandeh Rood River can be seen.
In the centre of Isfahan there is a new Fire Temple. The Zoroastrian’s minority who live in Isfahan have used it for worshiping.
Mausoleums & Shrines
- Mausoleum of Baba Qasem : Shahshahan District- Ibn-e Sina St.
- Mausoleum of Shahshahan : Shahshahan District- Ibn-e Sina St.
- Mausoleum of Haroun-e-Velayat: Hatef St.
- Mausoleum of Mir Fendereski: Saadat Abad St.
- Baba Rokn-al-Din Shrine: Saadat Abad St.
- Imamzadeh Ismaeil: Hatef St.
- Mausoleum of Khajeh Nezam-al-Molk: Ahmad Abad St.
- Darb-e-Imam Shrine: Sonbolestan District – Ibn-e Sina St.
- Imamzadeh Shah Zeid : Shah Zeid St. – Hasht Behesht -e Sharghi St.
- Imamzadeh Ahmad: Neshat St.
- Imamzadeh Ibrahim: Dardasht District- Ibn-e Sina St.
- Imamzadeh Jafar: Hatef St.
- Mausoleum of Sheikh Aboomasoud Razi: Foroughi St.
History of Isfahan has faced several ups and downs, destructive wars and fragile short periods of peace. Security of the city was severely damaged or vanished, and people’s lives in danger. All people wished to live in peace and prosperity, but most of the time; they were oppressed and suffered by invaders such as Mongols, by selfish rulers. Either they were killed by invaders or were forced to follow destructive decisions and commands of rulers.
The majority of Isfahan’s people lived under painful pressure of so-called rulers. They were worried about their lives, relatives and properties. They had to defend themselves through various possible methods and procedures.
They had to look out all the time. One of the defensive possibilities was to look out attacks of enemies. Observation of hostile mobilities were very vital for them. Towns were protected by strong high walls and towers. Construction of very high minarets helped them to look out and observe hostile mobility. We would like to introduce you some of these minarets.
Historic Minarets of Isfahan
- Monarjonban (Shaking Minaret): Ateshgah Ave.
- Bagh-e Qush khaneh Minaret (Toghchi Minaret): Toghchi Sq.
- Minaret of Shaya(Isaiah) Mosque: Hatef St.
- Sareban Minaret: Kamal St. Joubareh District
- Chehel-Dokhtaran Minaret: Kamal St. Joubareh District
- Dar-ol-Ziafeh Minaret: Kamal St. Joubareh District
THE KHAJU BRIDGE
One of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Khaju is the name of a small district in the neighborhood of bridge. It is about 132 meters long and 12 meters wide. The Khaju Bridge is made of two decks (floors). This bridge was built to work for different purposes. As a bridge connected the old Isfahan to villages located on the southern side and also connected Isfahan to Shiraz road. It was built as a wonderful recreational place. Steps in front of the bridge and arches in the first deck have been used to relax and listen to the sound of water. It was used as a dam too. Water canals of the bridge were closed during spring and summer seasons. Water was reserved on the western side of the bridge, then diverted to Maddies and distributed to different districts of the city, used for gardening, and agricultural purposes. Houses which were built among Madies, after few meters of digging wells, citizens could use filtered and clear drinking water. A beautiful garden city with houses full of small gardens and great numbers of fruit trees. The Khaju Bridge was built in the 15th century, during Tamerlane’s successors. In 1650 the bridge was reformed and constructed during the time of Shah Abbas the second. It has been repaired especially in 1837.
The lower deck has 21 slices, about three meters wide. At the central part of the upper deck, there is a beautiful pavilion fantastically decorated, used by the rulers and the royal family.
For the construction of the foundation of pavilion central part of the bridge is wider than the two sides. This means that preserved the bridge as a dam, stronger and more solid.
Large alcoves of lower deck located between water canals show other unique beauties. The Khaju Bridge is known all over Iran, visited by millions of visitors every year. Ornamentation of two sides, facing the river is a mixture of brick and tile mosaic work.
ALLAH VERDI KHAN BRIDGE (SIO SE POL)
Most of Iranians call it SI-O-SE POL the bridge of 33 arches. The bridge connects central Chahar Bagh to the lower part of Chahar Bagh Avenue. It was built in 1602. Allah Verdi Khan supervised construction of this bridge.
Allah Verdi Khan’s life is very interesting. He was born as a Christian in Georgia and he was sold as a Christian slave. He was sent to Iran. His life was painful and miserable. He was lucky enough to be sold as a slave to Shah Tahmasb Safavid court. He was a competent man who promoted fast. At the time of Shah Abbas the great he was appointed as the governor of Fars district which covered most of the southern provinces Shah Abbas the great fully trusted him and was highly promoted as commander in chief. Therefore this important bridge was named after Allah Verdi Khan. He was given a Moslem Turkish name Allah “God” Verdi “given”. The builder of this strong fantastic bridge was Ostad Hossein Banna.
The bridge is 300 meters long and 14 meters wide. On the two sides of the bridge low arcade can be seen. A beautiful view of the river can be seen from alcoves located on two sides of the bridge. The bridge is covered to traffic, only pedestrian pass over it.
This bridge is located in the neighborhood of a village called by the same name. It is a pre-Islamic architecture. Archeologists believe that it was built during Sassanid and Achaemenid dynasty. A part of brick arches are from Seljuk dynasty.
Marnan Bridge is one of the historical bridges which was constructed west of the Safavid city. It was reconstructed during Safavid period. The original bridge was as old as the Shahrestan Bridge. In accordance with the available documents, the Marnan Bridge was replanned and constructed by the order of Khajeh Sarfaraz who was an Armenian administrator of Armenian district in Isfahan.
Common people call it Pole Choobi (The wooden bridge). It is about 146 meters long and 4 meters wide. It has 21 water canals. It was built in the 17th century. It was used as a royal and private bridge. There are two parlors, built for the Shah’s and was closed to the public. Windows of this building open to different riversides.