1502 - 1736
Timur's destructions and the end of the Il-Khan reign, 14th to 16th
century Iran, still stylistically under Seldjuk and Timurid
influence, turned "Safavid" in the 16th to 17th century.
The Safavid dynasty had its origin in the "Safawiyyah", a
Sufi reform movement founded by Safi al-Din Abul Fath Is'haq Ardabili
(1252-1334), who had ethnic Kurdish, Azeri and Greek ancestry.
In 1502 Safavid Shah Ismail I (1487-1524), an Azerii Shiite, was successful in bringing the whole of the Iranian plateau under his control and create a unified Iran as a "national state" in the modern sense of the word. His capital was in Tabriz.
The height of Safavid glory was the reign of Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) who came to power at the age of 16 in 1587. He made Isfahan his capital and with the help of “imported” Armenians embarked on an ambitious construction program..
Shaykh Safi al-Din Tomb
Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili (1252-1334) was the founder of the "Safawiyyah" Sufi-Order and the father of the Safavid Dynasty. His tomb in Ardabil still shows the Timurid-Il-Khan influence. Next to it stands Sha Ismail I's tomb a true 17th cent Safavid building. These two tombs are the perfect juxtaposition of Timurid and Safavid architecture. (Photo and Text Archnet.org)
Masjid-i Muzaffariyya, Blue Mosque
Tabris was the early capital of the Safavids until Shah Abbas I moved it to the safety of Isfahan. The mosque, now in ruins, was once a complex which included a tomb, cistern, library and khanqah (hospitsl and mental institution). The function of the remaining building, itself in a state of ruin, has not been definitively identified (Sufi Tekke?). Named Blue Mosque for its unrivalled tile decor of which there are remnants. Both interior and exterior surfaces were once covered in a variety of tiles. The remains of tile mosaics, underglaze-painted and overglaze-painted tiles and luster tiles attest to the richness of the decorative scheme. Patterns are rendered in subtle colors with extensive use of cobalt blue as a ground for inscriptions and arabesque designs in gold and white. The dome was a deep blue, stenciled with gold patterns.
Extensive rebuilding took place between 1950 and 1966. The dome over the central chamber dates from this period, as do the undecorated interior walls. The following photos from Archnet.org (1999 after the restoration) remind one in design, detail, and layout of the sophisticated tile moasics in Timur's Aq Seray in Shakh-i Zabz (around 1400) (Text and photos Archnet.org)
Masjid-e Jame - Friday Mosque
1349 and 1559
Muzaffarid and Safavid
North portal (14th cent) and, to the left, the tracts added in the 16th cent.
Text and photos from Archnet.org)
Interior detail of north portal, showing tile mosaic with kufic inscriptions (1349)
Detail of the tile covering (1559)
Ganj-i Ali Khan Caravanserai and Mosque
Architect Ustad Muhammad Yazd
The caravanserai is located on the east side of
the Ganj-i Ali Khan Square. Its portal bears a foundation inscription
from 1598 composed by calligrapher Ali-Reza Abbasi. Its architect was
Ustad Muhammad Yazd.
The plan of the caravanserai is based on the four-iwan typology, with double-story halls centered on tall iwans enveloping four sides of an open courtyard. There is an octagonal fountain at the center of the courtyard which is chamfered at the corners. The caravanserai measures 32 by 23 meters. It has a small domed mosque at one corner that measures 5.5 by 5 meters. (Text and photos from Archnet.org)
Detail of tiled spandrels of the north ivan - note the figurative image of th archangel Gabriel!
Hamam-e Ganj Ali Khan
Built in 1631, the Ganj-i Ali Baths are located on the southern side of Ganj-i Ali Square, off a section of Vakil Bazaar known as Bazar-i Ganj-i Ali Khan. It is composed of a disrobing room, cold room and hot room, all covered with domes carried on squinches. The baths were converted into an ethnological museum in 1971. (Text and photos from Archnet.org)
Interior: hot room with octagonal pool. (With wax mannequins!!)
Dome of cool room
Towers designed to catch the evening breeze and direct it into Kerman's extensive covered bazaars (see the domed passage ways on the GE image). (Photo Archnet.org)
originally built 224-637, rebuilt 1502-1722
Sassanid, Saffanid, Safavid
This marker is for a castle and a lost city not
a religious building. The excuse for including it is that it is a
formidable place - with excellent documentation in Archnet.org
The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw, and the trunks of palm trees. The city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 AD) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 12th century, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).
During Safavid times, the city occupied six square kilometers and had between 9000 and 13,000 inhabitants. Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple (dating to early Sassanian times) and as a commercial and trading center on the famous Silk Road. Upon the site of the Zoroastrian temple the Jame Mosque was built during the Saffarian period (866-903 AD). Adjacent to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer who lived three hundred years ago.
(Text and Photos from Archnet.org.)
Bam declined following an invasion by Afghans
in 1722 and another by invaders from Shiraz in 1810. The city was
used as a barracks for the army until 1932 and then completely
abandoned. Intensive restoration work began in 1953 and continued
On 26 December 2003, an 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck Bam and claimed more than 40'000 lives. Over 70% of the buildings were completely destroyed.
A model of the Safavid city
Photograph from the crenalleted mud walls into the reconstructed city (1996)
Children playing soccer in the ruins (1996)
A highly informative article on Isfahan's architectural history can be found in Archnet.org – Isfahan
Naghshe Jahan Square
The Golden Age of Esfahan arrived in the 16th century under Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) who made it the new capital of the Safavid dynasty. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. The Shah Mosque is situated on the south side of this square. On the west side you can find Ali Qapu Palace. Sheikh Lütfallah Mosque is situated on the eastern side of this square. The northern side opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar.
Naghshe Jahan Square looking south towards the Shah Abbas complex. The Lütfallah Mosque is on the left,
the royal palace on the right. (Photo Wikipedia)
New Julfa, Isfahan, Iran
Julfa was and still is, though deminished, home to a large Armenian
minority who has sad origins, but contributed much to Isfahan's
In 1605 Abbas I forcibly moved more than 150 000 Armenians from northwest Iran, i.e., Azerbaidjan, into new quarters at Isfahan, which he named New Julfa, after the city where most of them came from. The Armenians were excellent merchants, brought their knowledge of seri-culture with them, and were skilled master builders. It is probably no exaggeration to state that Shah Abbas I's ambitous urban projects in Isfahan and especially the mosques and medrese of the Safavid period were built by Armenian craftsmen. In exchange for their services the Armenian community was given privileges which far exceeded those given to non-Islamic foreigners by the contemporary Ottoman Sultans. (Wikipedia)
Sheikh Lutfallah Mosque
Thought to be a palace chapel, the Mosque of Shaykh Lutfallah was built under Shah Abbas I, located slightly off axis across the maidan from the Ali Qapu, the entrance portal to the palace complex. Inscriptions identify the architect as Ustad Muhammad Riza B. Husein. Photos from Archnet.org
Shah Abbas I Mosque
Shah Abbas, Minaret Gate, Photo Archnet.org
Muqarnas in the Entrance
Sha Abbas, Porch, photo blogspot80
8th - 17th cent
Buyid, Seljuk, Safavid
The southeastern arcades of the 12th-14th century
The Friday Mosque as it stands now has a long
history of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and
renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the twentieth
century. Archaeological excavation has determined an Abbasid
hypostyle mosque in place by the 10th century.The Friday mosque of
Isfahan is a prominent architectural expression of the Seljuk rule in
Persia (1038-1118). In 1051, Isfahan ecame the capital of the
Seljuks. 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. 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 Seljuk capture of the city and religious riots between Hanafite and Shafi'ite sects under Malik Shah, and fire damaged the mosque and prompted the rebuilding of some of its old architectural elements and introducing new ones. Consequently, the mosque's plan evolved from the hypostyle plan to a four-iwan plan augmented in the 12th century after the additions of the four iwans, the southern 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). Buyid construction lined a façade around the courtyard and added two minarets that are the earliest example of the double minaret on record. Archnet.org
The South Iwan with its two minarets seen from the oldest gate of the mosque, photo panoramio
Construction under the Seljuks included the
addition of two brick domed chambers, for which the mosque is
renowned. The south dome was built to house the mihrab in 1086-87 by
Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier of Malik Shah, and was larger than
any dome known at its time. The north dome was constructed a year
later by Nizam al-Mulk's rival Taj al-Mulk.
Further additions and modifications took place incorporating elements from the Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timurids and Safavids.
Masjid-i Hakim - Mosque of Al-Hakim
Al Hakim Mosque photos from Archnet.org
Northern corner of courtyard wirh screenwall of the medresa on the left.
Isometric view of the mosque from Archnet.org.
Madar-i Shah Madrasa
by the last Safavid Shah, Husayn I, the Madrasa Madar-i Shah forms
the western side of a complex lying perpendicular to the Chahar Bagh.
Abutting the madrasa is a caravanserai (renovated to become the Shah
Abbas Hotel) beyond which lie stables. These structures are connected
by a bazaar, which lines each on their northern side. All four
structures exhibit a precise symmetry and are composed with a strict
axial concern for the Chahar Bagh.
The tile work is not of the quality available at the time of Shah Abbas' projects; the decoration is limited to geometric patterns instead of intricate floral designs. Blair and Bloom consider the Madar-i Shah complex 'the last major architectural achievement from the Safavid period', noting that 'the expansive scale and confident massing of forms set the style for architects in the following two centuries'.
Exterior view of the dome during restoration., Text and photo from Archnet.org