Jame Mosque of Isfahan

Located in Isfahan, 340 km south of Tehran, the Friday mosque of Isfahan is a prominent architectural expression of the Seljuk rule in Persia (1038-1118). In 1051, Isfahan became the capital of the Seljuks, who arrived in Khwarazm and Transoxiana from central Asia in the eleventh century. Defenders of Sunnism, they aimed at the restoration of the Abbasid Caliphate. The conquest of Isfahan by Tughril Beg elevated the city's status, which was manifested in the rich architectural projects representing the Seljuk's powerful empire - the first of which was the Friday mosque.

The Seljuks planned their city center and square near the existing Friday mosque, so that their square was bordered by its northern elevation. Later, Safavid ruler Shah Abbas would supersede the Seljuk center with his new maydan, built in 1602, effectively moving the focal point of the city further south. Therefore, many contemporary architectural historians consider the Friday Mosque to epitomize the Seljuk to early Safavid period and the core of what we might call the "pre-Abbas" city. Historical accounts differ on the condition of the mosque under Seljuk rule. The renowned historian and geographer, Yaqut al-Hamawi, tells us that the people of Isfahan were forced to demolish the mosque "for the lack of wood" in 1051, when Isfahan was captured by Tughril Beg. Another account by Nasir-i-Khusrau recounts that the mosque was "great and magnificent" around 1052.

What is certain, however, is that prior to the Seljuk conquest of Isfahan, a Friday mosque of a hypostyle plan that dates back to the tenth-century Buyid period existed on the site. The capture of the city and consequent riots, religious disputes (between Hanafite and Shafi'ite sects) under Malik Shah, and fire caused damage to the mosque and prompted the rebuilding of some of its old architectural elements and introducing new ones. Consequently, the mosque's plan evolved from a hypostyle plan with a rectangular inner court (65 by 55 meters) surrounded by prayer halls comprised of round columns carrying a wooden roof (7 bays on the southwest; 3 bays on the southeast and northwest; 5 bays on the northeast), to a four-iwan plan established/augmented in the twelfth century after the additions of the four iwans, the southern (southwest) domed chamber, the two minarets flanking it, and the northern domed chamber. Especially noticeable of all the later reconstructions and additions to the mosque is the double-story arcade surrounding the court (added around 1447), supplanting the original one-story arcade and unifying the elements of the court leading to the various spaces of the mosque.

What distinguishes the mosque is its integration into the urban fabric through the many gates and entrances that weave it with the city's activities and blur the boundaries between city space and mosque space. This is also a result of a cumulative history of construction and reconstruction resulting in a mosque that comprises an assemblage of structures built in different periods of time.

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  554 Review

The glorious architecture of Iran, like a piece of gem, has been constantly glittering among other architectural monuments of the world and has occupied a worthy place in the world of art. It was in the reign of the Safavids, that the city of Isfahan reached such a renown and elegance which was called " half of the world".

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