CONGREGATIONAL MOSQUE (MASJED JAME)
In Islamic countries, in every city there is a congregational mosque. In fact the most important mosque in each city is called the Jame mosque. Friday sermon or prayer is recommended to Shiites and congregational mosques in towns and cities are used for the Friday sermons. In metropolitan cities vast areas has been allocated for this purpose.
Masjede Jame in Isfahan is the most remarkable mosque in Isfahan. It is an encyclopedia of Iranian and Islamic art and architecture. Step by step development of Iranian art and architecture can be seen in this complex. It takes at least half a day to visit different parts of it. The complex shows various structures from different centuries which date back from 10th century to 18th century.
The oldest part was built on top of a Sassanid fire temple which belonged to Zoroastrians. The first part of the mosque dates back to 8th century. The second mosque or part belonged to 1030.
During Buyid dynasty in 908- 932 one of the oldest sections was built. During Buyid a courtyard surrounded by several prayer- halls were built. In later centuries changes took place in the mosque.
Saheb Ibn Ebad was a learned minister of Buyid dynasty who lived in Isfahan and played a great role for Isfahan development. The Seljuk dynasty expanded the mosque in the 11th century.
The jame mosque shows specifications of Iranian mosques. It has a courtyard and there are four major Eivans (grand- arches). It has one of the largest courtyards in Iran.
Four Eivans are connected by two storey arcades. Eivans date back to 15th to 17th centuries. These arcades are ornamented by tiles. Some of these tiles are glazed and some inglazed. There are two marbles made pools in the courtyard. One of these pools is covered by a structure reminding the holy Kabeh in Mecca. Moslems could practice the Hajj rites, before traveling to Mecca.
THE SOUTHERN EIVANS
This Eivan is known as Soffe Saheb Ibn Ebad. The present Eivan dates back to Seljuk period. There are two beautiful minarets on the top of Eivan, which are 35 meters high, and belong to Aq- Qunlu era.
Interior parts and exterior parts of Eivan are decorated beautifully with tiles and tile mosaics. The inscription dates back to Safavid dynasty. At the back of this Eivan there is a wonderful sanctuary named "the Nezam Al Molk" dome.
Nezam Al Molk was a popular vizier of Seljuk dynasty. This dome was built in 1030. The dome reminds us the Sassanid architecture.
There is fantastic calligraphy in Kufic script which dates back to 11th century around the dome. The Nezam Al Molk's name can be seen in the calligraphy. The dome is one of the most glorious domes in Iran's mosques.
The base of the dome is in rectangular shape which is converted to circular dome. This is a pre- Islamic technique, but largeness of the dome can not be compared to pre- Islamic domes which were much smaller than this lofty monument. Ornamentation of the Mehrab (prayer- niche) and also marble stone of lower part belong to Safavid era.
Other important structures located next to the dome on two sides are hypostyle prayer- halls are from Seljuk era. At the far end of south west there is a beautiful hypostyle prayer hall from Safavid dynasty. During the imposed war of Iraq against Iran, the southeastern hypostyle prayer hall, located next to the grand Bazaar was bombarded. A remarkable part of this hypostyle hall and the old Bazaar were bombarded by air to ground missiles. The old part of Isfahan was seriously damaged and ruined by ground to ground and air to ground missiles. Many old monuments were destroyed.
HYPOSTYLE HALLS & TAJ AL MOLK DOME.
Sofe - ye Darvish (Eivan) is from Seljuk dynasty. Fabulous ornamentations of this Eivans belong to later period. Specifications of ornamentation are different from other parts of the mosque. The magnificent stuccoworks are from Shah Soleiman Safavid.
Behind the Eivan there are successions of hypostyle halls which date back to different dates. At the far end the lofty dome of Taj Al Molk can be seen. Taj Al Molk was a vizier from Seljuk dynasty. He rival to Nezam Al Molk. This glorious dome was built by the command of Taj – Al Molk.
Interior decoration of Taj Al Molk dome is unique in all Iranian mosques. It is a single shelled dome. Fortunately the dome and its decoration have not been damaged. Great varieties of designs made of plaster and small pieces of bricks are a splendid sample of huge artistic work. In fact there is a collection of designs which have survived for more than 900 years. The dome is without any Mehrab (prayer- niche).
One of the entrances to the mosque is located next to the dome. For those architects who are seeking traditional adornment, the dome is considered as a museum of decorative designs. The Kufic calligraphy around the dome's base dates back to 1080 and covers the name of Taj Al Molk. The Khaki dome is about 18 meters high and about 9 meters in diameter.
THE WESEREN EIVAN
The western Eivan is called Soffe - ye - Ostad. The original construction belongs to Seljuk dynasty. The beautiful tile and tile- mosaic work belong to era of Shah Sultan Hossein.
This Eivan is considered a wonderful museum of Iranian and Islamic calligraphy. Different kinds of calligraphy such as Solth, Nastaliq, Bannaeis and geometric designed calligraphy have ornamented interior parts of Eivans. For those artists who have selected calligraphy as their art field, this Eivan has a lot to teach them. Just next to the Eivan there is a door which opens to another part of mosque which was built by Sultan Oljeitu. One of most fantastic Mehrabs (prayer niche) is located in this part. Many Iranologists consider this Mehrab has a unique structure. It shows an excellent stucco work which dates back to 1310.
Unfortunately it was damaged during bombardment of Isfahan. There is an old wooden Minbar in this part.
The Mehrab's design shows a combination of calligraphy, imaginary flowers, blossoms and leaves which is a masterpiece in Islamic world. Such a fantastic work can be created by a unique faithful stucco work artist.
THE WINTER GALLERY (BEIT AL SHETA)
Each part of the Jameh mosque is a masterpiece of art and architecture. This winter gallery from Timurid era is one of the beauties of Iranian architecture, dates back to 1447.
Each part of it looks like tents, used by Timurid. This part is quite cool during hot summer season and warm during cold days of winter season. Style of the winter gallery is nearly self sufficient regarding heating and cooling systems. Day light is reflected to Beit Al Sheta by small windows covered with slices of marble stone. The architect has taken ideas from tents in order to create this part.
EIVAN SHAGERD (SOFFEH- YE SHAGERD)
It was originally built during Seljuk period. Ornamentation is from Seljuk and IL – Khanid periods. Fortunately its ornamentation from Seljuk and IL Khanid period has not been damaged. The calligraphy of this Eivan is from Shah Soleiman Safavid.
The central part of Eivan has a structure which is similar to Eivane Ostad, on the opposite side. Next to this Eivan there is a corridor leads us to a Madreseh (Theological School) from Mozafarid era.