In the southern corner of this historical square in the city of Isfahan, one of the most important mosques of the Safavid era is located, which is known as Imam Khomeini Mosque, also known as Abbasi Mosque. This construction of this mosque started in 1020 AH during the reign of Shah Abbas the First, and took almost 26 years. It is an eternal feat in the architecture, tiling, and stone cutting of the 11th Century AH, which was registered among Iran’s national monuments in the year 1932 and has also been enlisted as a global heritage by the world body UNESCO.
The main gate of Imam Khomeini Mosque is decorated with beautiful poems. This gate’s cover is of gold and silver, and is decorated with pretty patterns. It is considered as one of the artistic feats of the Safavid era. The inscription over the main gate of the Mosque has been written by the renowned calligrapher of the Safavid era, Ali Reza Abbasi. This gate is one of the architectural and tiling masterpieces of Iran. The triangular balcony of the entry of Imam Khomeini Mosque, coupled with two turquoise 27-meter long minarets, loom over the square. Behind this balcony, there is a 52-meter long dome. Meanwhile, the Mosque’s entry corridor also manifests a magnificent architecture. The architect of this mosque has allocated two paths on the two sides of the corridor, as well.
There is a magnificent and very large pond in the middle of the mosque’s courtyard, and there are also two covered areas in the eastern and western corners of the mosque, which are similar to each other. The eastern roofed region is simple and unadorned, while the western roofed region is smaller and decorated and its altar is one of the most beautiful ones throughout the city of Isfahan’s mosques. The huge dome that looms over the roofed area is one of the tallest domes of mosques across Iran. Meanwhile, the voices are reflected at the center of the roofed area of the mosque and are heard clearly throughout the entire covered area of this mosque.
The inscriptions of Imam Khomeini Mosque over the domes, balconies, and surfaces are decorated with tiling, which are the works of Safavid era artists and calligraphers. On the southwestern and southeastern angles of the mosque, there are two similar religious schools under the names of Naseri and Soleimanieh. The presence of chambers for residence of clerics in the school’s courtyard, and the mulberry trees in the gardens has created a delightful atmosphere.
Imam Khomeini Mosque maintains differences to many other mosques. All the sections of this mosque are different from each other. For instance, the ceiling and walls’ tiling bear no resemblance to each other, and have in fact promoted the beauty and grandeur of the mosque.
The magnificence and grandeur of Imam Khomeini Mosque has attracted the attention of many experts in the field of architecture. In fact, Professor Arthur Apham Pop, the famous Iranologist, in his book on Iran’s architecture has referred to Imam Khomeini Mosque and has written that this historical mosque marks the peak of the 1000-year old history of development of mosques in Iran.
You became familiar with Imam Khomeini Mosque. Now, we intend to introduce another historical monument of Imam Square, the Aali Qaapou Building, for you. This building has been located in the western corner of Imam Square, and in front of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. This building is highly attractive due to its magnificent façade, architecture, and tile work. In the second section of today’s program, we will have a glance at this historical building.
The Aali Qaapou building is a solid and magnificent palace that has been built five centuries ago. It is 386 meters in length; 140 meters in width; and 48 meters in height. During the Safavid era, this building has been referred to as “Qasr-e Dolatkhaaneh”. It is a unique example of the architecture of palaces in Safavid era, which has been built upon the order of Safavid king, Shah Abbas, in the beginning of the 17th Century. The Safavid kings received the dignitaries and ambassadors in this palace. This is a six-storey building, while each floor maintains its own specific decorations and is allocated for a specific purpose. For instance, the first floor is the guards’ headquarters; the second floor is the pantry; the third floor is the dining room; and finally the sixth floor, which is highly decorated with plasterworks, is the music hall. Meanwhile, this building’s rooftop looms over the historical city of Isfahan and Imam Square.
One of the features of Aali Qaapou Building is the presence of numerous chambers in different floors. One of the foreign tourists of the Safavid era, Pietro Dellavalle, has written in his travel book that: “The number of flats, chambers, and interconnected corridors in this palace is such that the guards pointed out there are over 500 doors in this building.”
The beauty of the Aali Qaapou Building is due to its delicate façade, architecture and tile work. The paintings on the walls’ plasterworks are covered with gold and miniatures which have been created by Reza Abbasi, and his skilled students. These decorations display the paintings of flowers, bushes, tree branches and leaves, and wildlife on the ceilings, shelves, corridors and stairways of this building.
One of the other features of Aali Qaapou Palace is the magnificent balcony which is located at the upper floor of the building, looming over Imam Square. Wooden pillars have surrounded this balcony and a pretty ceiling covers these large wooden pillars. This balcony had been the venue of festivities. Moreover, from this balcony, many watched polo and horse-riding competitions which were held at the Square. In the middle of this balcony there is an oblong-shaped pond, which is surrounded and decorated with marble stones.
In the 6th floor of the Aali Qaapou building, there is one of the largest and most beautiful halls of this palace, which is decorated with plasterworks. These plasterworks are evident over shelves and walls and this hall has become known as the Music Chamber. Meanwhile, these plasterworks manifest the creativity and innovation of the related artists.