If traveling to Iran is on your schedule, which it should be, be sure to include Isfahan and Naghsh-e Jahan Square in your list of attractions. Because if you don’t see Isfahan and its unique architecture, you have not seen not only Iran but also half of the world.
Many people around the world who are interested in travel and tourism know about the art and architecture of post-Islamic Iran with Isfahan. Isfahan also has an influential position in the eyes of Iranians. That is why Iranians call Isfahan “half the world.”
Isfahan World Heritage Sites
Although Isfahan is an ancient city, its name is associated with the name of Shah Abbas the Great. Because it was during the reign of Shah Abbas the Great that Isfahan was chosen as the capital of the Safavid Empire. Certainly, this does not mean that there is only Safavid art and architecture in Isfahan. Rather, Isfahan has been the capital city for various periods in history. Especially after Islam, due to its strategic position in Iran’s trade and politics, kings have always been interested in this city.
There are many works of art, architecture, and history in the city of Isfahan. But there are three very important monuments in this city that have a global value and are considered part of the human heritage. One is the Naghsh-e Jahan Square Complex, the other is the Atigh Grand Mosque, and the third is the Chehel Sotoun Palace. These three valuable works are among the World Heritage Sites of Isfahan that have been registered in the UNESCO list. All three of these monuments are a stunning representation of Islamic art and architecture in Iran.
Naghsh-e Jahan Square
Naghsh-e Jahan Square is one of the monuments of the Safavid Empire. This square with a length of 560 meters and a width of 160 meters is located in the center of Isfahan. Valuable works are located on all four sides of this rectangular square.
On the north side of the square is the entrance of Gheysariyeh Bazaar. On the south side of the square, there is the Abbasi Grand Mosque, also known as the Shah Mosque or the Imam Mosque. We have Sheikh Lutfullah Mosque on the east side of the mosque. And on the west side of the square, there is the Ali Qapou Palace. Each of these buildings is unique and shows the pinnacle of Iranian architecture and art in the Safavid period.
Atigh Jame Mosque
Perhaps this mosque is the most important Jame mosque in Iran in terms of architecture and the impact it had on the evolution and constitution of four-porch Iranian mosques. The foundation of the Jame Mosque dates back to the 8th century AD. The mosque was demolished in the 9th century AD during the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad, and was rebuilt with a modification of its qibla direction.
Atigh Jame Mosque was developed in the 10th century during the reign of Ale-Buye. Over the next two centuries, during the Seljuk period, with the efforts of Khajeh Nezam-ol-Molk, a well-known and worthy Iranian minister, a dome was added and its middle courtyard became four porches. Other buildings were added to this Mosque in the fourteenth century, during the Ilkhanate and then during the reign of Ale-Mozaffar, and later in the fifteenth century in the Timurid era. The Atigh Jame Mosque was renovated many times during the Safavid and Qajar dynasties and is adorned with common decorations of that period. The value and importance of the ancient mosque of Isfahan are because of these developments, which in each period, based on the architecture and art of that era, have additions and changes. Thus, the Isfahan Jame Mosque can be considered an exhibition of the history of Iranian architecture in the Islamic era.
Chehel Sotoun Palace
Chehel Sotoun Palace is one of the Safavid buildings that has been registered in the list of Iranian gardens in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The initial core of Chehel Sotoun, which was laid during the reign of Shah Abbas I, was a pavilion in the middle of the Jahan Nama Garden. Later, during the reign of Shah Abbas II, it was completed with major changes, and other sections were added to it and it became known as Chehel Sotoun. Chehel Sotoun has a central hall where special guests and foreign ambassadors were welcomed. The walls and dome of this hall have beautiful paintings and drawings that show parts of important history and events.
The Hall of Mirrors and the porch of Chehel Sotoun Palace are other parts of the mansion, each of which shows the beauty and other manifestations of the architecture of that period. One of the many beauties of this palace is the large pool that is in front of the main door of the garden. The reflection of the palace in the water has led many researchers to conclude that the names of the forty columns are derived from the total number
of twenty columns in the palace and the twenty pictures of the columns seen in the water. Whether this interpretation is true or not, it is an artistic interpretation, but what is certain is that the number 40 in Iranian culture is a sign of multiplicity and abundance, and it is often seen in Persian poems and stories. So it’s no surprise that a palace with so many beautiful columns is called forty columns.