It took eighteen years to build a mosque without a minaret right in front of the magnificent Ali Qapou Palace, with a circular dome called Sheikh Lotfollah. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, is one of the unique examples of creativity and initiative in the art of Iranian architecture in the construction of mosques.
History of the Mosque
The construction of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque began in 1603, when the plan for the Charbagh Gardens and the Hezardjerib Garden of Isfahan was carried out by order of Shah Abbas I of Safavid dynasty.
The mosque was built in a place where there was a less-used mosque. At that time, Safavid architecture was in its heyday and it was at the request of the Shah that Sheikh Lotfollah was built instead.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, which is one of the most beautiful and artistic historical monuments in Isfahan, was built by one of the famous architects of that period named Mohammad Reza Isfahani. Parts of dome’s tiles and its inscriptions have also been written by Ali Reza Tabrizi Abbasi.
Who was Sheikh Lotfollah?
The Safavids formed a state based on Islam and the shiee religion. This was the reason why Iran was a safe and suitable land for many religious scholars of other countries at that time.
Sheikh Lotfollah was also one of the great scholars from Jabal Amel, Lebanon, who, like Sheikh Baha’i, immigrated to Iran at that time, and his daughter was married to Shah Abbas Safavid. Therefore, Sheikh Lotfollah had a high position for the Shah and he built a very magnificent mosque in his name.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque not only became his residence, but he was also training jurisprudence, religious meetings, and Friday prayers.
Features of the Mosque
In addition to the stunning decorations, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque has several features that distinguish it from other mosques in the world. In the following, we will introduce these features.
Not having a minaret
Minarets were built to the call to prayer and to announce the time of congregational prayers for the people. But since Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was not built for the common people, they did not build a minaret for it. It is said that this mosque was built only for the confidants and courtiers, who also entered the mosque with their own ceremonials and by using the hidden road that was built underground. This secret road connected Ali Qapou mansion to the mosque. Therefore, there was no need for a minaret.
Instead of the courtyard, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque has entrance stairs that lead to the square.
Since this mosque is located in Naghsh-e Jahan Square and Naghsh-e Jahan has a rectangular shape, so the symmetries and geometric principles play a key role in it. The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, located right in front of Ali Qapou Palace, could not have an entrance courtyard or nave due to the same symmetrical requirements. The lack of a nave means that the mosque does not have a courtyard and it not only is not a deficiency for such a magnificent and beautiful building, but also one of its distinguishing features from other mosques in Iran and other Islamic countries.
Another feature of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a 45-degree rotation that is relative to the north-south axis, having this rotation means that at the beginning of the entrance of the mosque, they have built a corridor that first turns to the left and then to the right, which, as mentioned, is 45 degrees. But why did the architects build these corridors?
The reason is that the entrance door of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque opens to the east of the square, and if the mosque was built in the same direction and without the said turns, then it would be difficult to find the direction of the qibla in this mosque. Therefore, the builders of the mosque have solved this problem by creating this corridor in an innovative way.
There is no doubt that the interior and exterior decorations of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque are famous. In the meantime, we can mention the design of colors in the outer part of the dome, which has a stunning beauty in daylight. Also, another unique art in the construction of this dome is the peacock-like design that was created in the inner center of the dome and its feathers are completed by the light that shines from the upper arch at the entrance of the mosque.
The altar of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque with mosaic tiles and delicate moqarnas is one of the most beautiful masterpieces of Iranian architecture. The walls and ceiling of this mosque are truely one in a million!