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In this regard, the North Dome of the Great Mosque of Isfahan demonstrates one of the most brilliant examples of what may be said to be a Saljuq specialty in Iranian architecture. During the 1120s, pillars and roofs of much of the sanctuary and the courtyard arcade of the mosque were taken down and replaced with vaulted spaces internally and four compositions facing the courtyard.Equally inventive and complex is the epigraphic style and program of the North Dome, in which set brick and carved stucco form Kufic bands of text ornament; Qurʾanic inscriptions on the impost blocks are in a massive cursive script, whereas the foundation inscriptions on the dome itself are in an angular Kufic formed out of brick relief (Galdieri, 1972-84, III, p. These deep-set arched openings framed with rectangular bands were placed at the center of each side of the courtyard, both mediating the rhythmic march of the smaller arches along each side and accentuating each courtyard side as an integrated façade (Plate III [3]).The main features of this first hypostyle mosque were its classically proportioned rectangular area subdivided into a covered sanctuary, its roof held atop equidistantly placed pillars, and an open courtyard.This early mosque was purportedly renovated in the 10th-century when the Buyids (932-1055) made Isfahan their major center of political life, yet still little is known about these works. The majority in Chardin’s account must have been the neighborhood mosques that served, as in every Muslim city, the residential quarters, sections of bazaars, or else were attached to the city’s numerous types, while mosques dating to the Safavid and later periods represent, albeit in considerably diminished numbers, the largest extant examples (Haneda, 1996).

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In the process, however, the mosque complex became an irregularly shaped entity that seems to have grown organically around its constituent parts and into the fabric of the city. 1304-16) and in the post-Mongol period, the area behind the western . The script that are set against a complex foliate scrollwork and surrounded by borders of twisted vines and a panel featuring lotus-like flowers mentioning the names of the twelve Shiʿite Imams, possibly a reference to Öljeitü’s conversion to Shiʿism. This has been a principal Islamic practice since the Prophet Moḥammad established the first congregational mosque at his house in Medina (Hillenbrand, 1994, pp. Friday mosques of major cities were additional to smaller neighborhood mosques that dotted most large cities in the Islamic world. Isfahan acquired early in its Islamic history a large mosque that served the male portion of the entire community for congregational Friday noon prayer, hence Masjed-e Jomʿe (Friday Mosque).A measure of the continually charged sanctity and social significance of the Great Mosque of Isfahan is the fact that Safavid Shahs used the walls of the mosque to stamp onto the city representations of their dominion; Shah Esmāʿil I and Shah Ṭahmāsb ordered important royal decrees (, q.v.) to be affixed strategically onto the mosque. Ṭahmāsb’s epigraphic addition to the south , q.v.) of Shiʿite belief, thus linking the historic center of religiosity in Isfahan to the new Shiʿite focus of the Safavids. While the shrine’s significance rests on its façade, the mosque represents the aspirations of an architect-patron in its attempt to introduce new architectural elements into the standard four- plan of mosques. A selection of Qurʾanic verses, which interweave numerical symbols of Twelver Shiʿism with the name of Esmāʿil, reference the shah as the recipient of God’s grace.Shah Ṭahmāsb had further ordered repairs to the mosque in 1531-32 to be carried out by one of the patronized clergy acting also as royal representative (Babaie, 2003, p. Paradoxically, this change in religious practice contributed, in part, to the attempt to rival the Masjed-e Jāmeʿ with the Royal Mosque during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās the Great early in the 17th century. This mosque of the early 16th century, dated by inscription to 929/1523, is noteworthy for its pairing with the shrine of Hārun-e Welāyat (1513) and their location on the southern threshold of the Meydān-e Kohna (Hillenbrand, pp. Like the shrine, the epigraphic program of the portal highlights the connection between Shah Esmāʿil and the family of the Prophet Moḥammad, albeit here considerably less intense both visually and iconographically (Honarfar, 1965, p. An allusion in the inscription to Imam ʿAli as the “opener of gates” reiterates the Safavid devotion to Imam ʿAli as the gate ( plan, the familiar Persian form already standardized at the Great Mosque of Isfahan, is relatively modest in size and ordinary in composition (Plate VI [3]).

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