Great Shah Abbas And His Buildings In Isfahan The Great Shah Abbas and His Buildings in Isfahan The Great Shah Abbas I reigned from 1588-1629. He was a ruler who relocated the capital from Saljuq to Isfahan, in the center of the country. This was his attempt to centralize political and religious authority, develop capital, and institute Safavid Iran as a world power, both economically and politically. Shah Abbas began his renovations with the transformation of the little Timurid palace into the Ali Qapu, or ‘sublime port’ an entrance to the royal gardens. Abbas made it his headquarters while his architects began the creation, under his direction and often under his personal supervision, of his new capital.
Abbas built the Ali Qapu with a balcony from which he was able to observe the activities in the court below him. The columned porch provided an elevated reviewing stand for royalty and guests. The interior is decorated with hanging plaster vaults that are decorated like Chinese porcelains, similar to Persian lusterware. The rooms are decorated in red, white, blue and gold, the walls painted with landscapes and Hunting scenes, the floors covered with carpets of silk and gold. There are figure paintings on the walls of the upper rooms that are blandly erotic. In front of the Ali Qapu there is a rectangular shaped pool filled with water.
The water was transported to the pool by means of hydraulic machines worked by oxen. The upper level contained a music room at the very top of the building. The Music room was intricately decorated with small niches that were filled with glass, pottery, enameled metal and semi-precious stones, this may have been an attempt to improve the acoustics of the room. The threshold of the main gateway was regarded with high respect during Safavid times. No one was allowed to walk over the threshold, and even the Shah dismounted to pass through, some even kissed the gate as they passed through.
The garden precinct behind the Ali Qapu was dotted with small palaces and pavilions. Shah Abbas also designed the Chahar Bagh, or ‘four gardens’ a long avenue which approached his grand capital. The Chahar Bagh passes over the Bridge of Thirty-three Arches, or Si-o Se Pol, a beautiful site that Shah Abbas particularly admired. Beside the Chahar Bagh, open archways led to further gardens and pavilions. There were the gardens of the Throne, the Nightingale, the Vineyard, The Mulberries, the Dervishes and so on.
Some of these pavilions were coffee-houses, the area was always bustling with activity. In 1603, Abbas began the building of the Shaykh Lutfallah Mosque. The magnificent tile-work and Yazd marble steps of the entrance portal, and the restrained beauty of the dome attracted the interest of many. The interior of the Mosque is very balanced. The impact of the vast glowing room, heightened after passing from the glaring sunlight through a long gloomy passageway, is overwhelming.
Outwardly the dome, both in form and color is peculiar. The form is broad and the color is not a flashy blue, but an unglazed beige. The arabesques are glazed white, turquoise and deep blue. Very skillful use has been made to contrast the glazed and unglazed tiles, which gives a glitter effect when the sunlight strikes its surface. The largest, most spectacular monument of Shah Abbas’s Reign is the construction of the Royal Mosque, or Shah Mosque.
The Mosque follows the typical Iranian plan- a central courtyard with an iwan, or vaulted hall open at one end, in the middle of each of its four sides a dome over the mihrab at the end of the qibla iwan. Abbas began work on this Mosque in 1613 after he had been ruling for 25 years already. Abbas worked his architects hard, and some of the construction was ill-prepared. The tiling of some sections of the Mosque was completed using cheaper, quicker techniques. The haft-rangi or seven color tile was used to quickly serve the purpose of covering a wall with color; but it lacked the brilliance of the more laborious Mosaic.
The interior of the Sanctuary contains a dome that is decorated by a sensational medallion that resembles medallions found in carpets of north-western Iran. The two oratories alongside the Sanctuary contain the same motif in the domed vaults. There are two courts each with their own pool. The Mosque is beautifully decorated with a wide range of colors. The entrance portal is covered with a mosaic of many colored pieces cut from larger pieces and fitted together to form complex patterns. It has been estimated that 18 million bricks and half a million tiles were used in the building of the Shah Mosque.
These were the principal buildings of Shah Abbas’s reign. In the short span of his reign, Isfahan had been transformed into a great metropolis of its time. Abbas was successful in his attempt to create a city that could compare to the great cities of Christendom, and the beauty of Isfahan and the buildings he constructed will be studied and admired forever. Bibliography Blunt, Wilfrid. Isfahan, Pearl of Persia.
(New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1966.) 208 pgs. Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. (London: Phaidon Press, 1997.) 446 Pgs. Bibliography Bibliography Blunt, Wilfrid.
Isfahan, Pearl of Persia. (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1966.) 208 pgs. Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. (London: Phaidon Press, 1997.) 446 Pgs. Arts Essays.