Holding Friday sermon is imperative among Muslims and that is why all Islamic cities have a Jameh mosque. The Jameh mosque of Isfahan is known as the museum of Persian architecture and decoration because in the different historical periods, some parts have been added to the mosque’s foundation. Based on the discovery of a column with Sassanid decorations, the mosque was estimated to go back to the Sassanid’s dynasty. It seems that during the Sassanid’s period it was used as a fire temple.
Holding Friday sermon is imperative among Muslims and that is why all Islamic cities have a Jame mosque. The Jame mosque of Isfahan is known as the museum of Persian architecture and decoration because in the different historical periods, some parts have been added to the mosque’s foundation.
The primary mosque was built in the 8th century, and like the early Islamic mosques it had a central courtyard that was surrounded by a pray hall with wooden roof. This style of architecture is also known as Arabic style. At that era, the direction of Kiblah had drawbacks so its orientation towards the true Kiblah is a little diverted.
During the 9th century, the second evolution of this mosque happened. The alter was destroyed and its derivation was corrected. At the time of Buyid dynasty, Isfahan became a major city, which effected the Jameh mosque as well. The oldest surviving part of the mosque today is from the Buyid dynasty when the mosque was enclosed by a caravansary, Monastery and a library. The Jameh mosque consists of several prayer halls that were organized around a central courtyard, these prayer halls have spacious vaulted area that was supported by wooden and brick columns.
In the 11th and early 12th centuries, when Seljuks ruled the country, the prayer halls were expanded, two domes were added that the northern one was named Taj-ol-Molk, which is also known as khaki dome, and the southern one was called Nezam-Ol-Molk. Unfortunately, the Ismailiyah, a branch of Shiite Islam, burned down the structures that were built in the earlier Seljuk; of course, except the two domes. After the fire, the mosque was restored, but based on the favorite four Iwan style of Seljuk that is an Iranian style. Furthermore, during the Ilkhanid, the mosque was adorned with Uljeitu’s dome chamber and Uljeitu’s Mihrab that is one of the most beautiful stucco alters in Iran and a witness of the perfection of Iranian taste and art.
After the fire, the mosque was restored, but based on the favorite four Iwan style of Seljuk that is an Iranian style.
The Mozafarid rulers added the northern prayer hall, the Omar’s school (Madrasah), and Omar’s platform (soffeh) to the mosque, but the decoration of Omar platform belongs to the Afghans. Other additions were done that are listed here as follow:
- The addition of Beit Al Sheta that has parallel and similar columns and was built as a winter place of gathering. Sheta in Arabic means winter and the place is located down the stairs with limited access to outside, it was built in Timurid era.
- South iwan’s tile working and minarets were done at the time of Turkaman.
- The southwestern prayer hall was made.
- The Kaaba, which is the structure on the top of the pool, was built during the Safavid era.
- The entrance portal and the present gateway that belongs to Qajar era.
The mosque has a courtyard with four iwans which include the Sahib (located in South), the Shagerd (located in East), The Ostad (located in West), and the Dervish (located in North) that all are decorated with Muqarnas and Karbandi decoration. Muqarnas is an architectural decoration that is used in entrance, and Karbandi, an architectural ornamentation that is created of intersections of sun arch for decorating the space where the four walled room is converted to a circle that acts as a dome stem. The sahib platform belongs to the Seljuk era and decorated in Kara Koyunlu, a Turk tribe that ruled over some part of Iran from 14th to 15th century, and the Safavids’ dynasty.
The eastern iwan was named Ostad platform and belongs to Seljuk era but was adorned with tiling in Safavid era, the decorations of this section include Thuluth, a type of Islamic calligraphy, and Nastalik, an Iranian calligraphy inscription done in the 18th century during the reign of Shah Sultan Hossein. Opposite of this iwan, the Shagerd platform stands, a platform that was established in Seljuk era and some decorations were added in later periods especially during the reigns of the Ilkhanid and the Safavid kings. The iwan lacks tilework and was decorated with muqarnas. The northern iwan is known as dervish and belongs to the Seljuk era and seems to be used as the main portal entrance of the mosque at that time. The south iwan is named sahib, and as the other platforms were built by the order of Seljuk rulers with two minarets each 35 m high made by Ag Qoyunlus, a Turk tribe that ruled over some part of Iran from 14th to 16th century. the decorations of this section include some Safavid inscriptions.
One of the main features of the Jameh mosque was accessibility. It had eight entrances that the visitors just use the eastern one and it is located in Hatef Street. The mosque is located in the old bazaar of Isfahan between two old neighborhoods called Joobareh and Dardasht. In 2012 the Jameh mosque of Isfahan was registered as a World Heritage by UNESCO.