Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Central Persia

  July 02, 2022   Read time 2 min
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Central Persia
The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a stunning example of intricate Iranian architecture, standing tall since the early 17th century. The design of the building itself is rather simple, but the tile work makes it well worth the visit.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is best recognized for its defiantly off-center dome and lack of minarets. The cream-hued tiles shift colors as the sun moves throughout the day, giving them a pinkish tint at times. Covered in vivid colored tiles inside and out, its dome is without a doubt the focal point of attention with its arabesque designs that become smaller as they approach the center.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the masterpieces of Iranian architecture that was built during the Safavid Empire, standing on the eastern side of Naqsh-i Jahan Square, Esfahan, Iran. Construction of the mosque started in 1603 and was finished in 1619. It was built by the chief architect Mohammadreza Isfahani, during the reign of Shah Abbas I of Persia. On the advice of Arthur Upham Pope, Reza Shah Pahlavi had the mosque rebuilt and repaired in the 1920s.

Of the four monuments that dominated the perimeter of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, this one was the first to be built.

The purpose of this mosque was for it to be private to the royal court (unlike the Shah Mosque, which was meant for the public). For this reason, the mosque does not have any minarets and is smaller. Indeed, few Westerners at the time of the Safavids even paid any attention to this mosque, and they certainly did not have access to it. It was not until centuries later, when the doors were opened to the public, that ordinary people could admire the effort that Shah Abbas had put into making this a sacred place for the ladies of his harem, and the exquisite tile-work, which is far superior to that covering the Shah Mosque.

Interior view

To avoid having to walk across the Square to the mosque, Shah Abbas had the architect build a tunnel spanning the piazza from the Ali Qapu Palace to the mosque. On reaching the entrance of the mosque, one would have to walk through a passage that winds round and round, until one finally reached the main building. Along this passage there were standing guards, and the obvious purpose of this design was to shield the women of the harem as much as possible from anyone’s entering the building. At the main entrance there were also standing guards, and the doors of the building were kept closed at all times.

Today, these doors are open to visitors, and the passage underneath the field is no longer in use.

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