Jameh d’Ardestan Mosque: place of worship or museum of architectural styles

TEHRAN – Named after an oasis city in the heart of the Iranian plateau, the Jameh Mosque of Ardestan is one of the best-preserved places of worship that still exhibits a variety of ancient architectural styles.

Located in the province of Isfahan, Ardestan was one of the most flourishing towns in the region during the Middle Ages, mainly famous for its pomegranates and its production of silk.

The two-storey hypostyle mosque is an early Islamic building with many additions over its long history of use. It incorporates the successive architectural styles of the Sassanids, Buyids, Seljuks and Safavids.

However, the majority of what its visitors see dates from the Seljuk era (circa 1040-1196). According to the Encyclopædia Iranica, most of the Seljuk decoration is concentrated in the sanctum while the dome chamber closely follows the model of the Isfahan school in its multiple lower openings and transition area.

The congregational mosque has a courtyard with four porticoes (iwan) surrounded by arcades surrounding it. However, it is part of larger premises which also include other mud-brick structures such as a cistern, caravanserai, market, bathhouse and madrasa.

According to Archnet, the first fragments of stucco, found in the western corner of the courtyard, are dated to the end of the 10th/4th century. Ah. The interior of the dome and iwan chamber is largely covered with plaster. The dome and the transition zone are articulated with simulated masonry; the iwan vault is uniquely faced with an intricate stucco design of interwoven arabesques. The mihrab exemplifies skillful stucco carving and may represent Mongolian restoration.

The mosque stands on a site once occupied by a Sasanian structure, as evidenced by remains discovered during archaeological excavations. Its earlier structure was probably of the hypostyle type, with a central courtyard surrounded by arcades. The remains of some of these arcades in the current mosque show that they were covered with barrel vaults. The mosque occupies an irregular space centered on a rectangular courtyard with four iwans, incorporating pieces of the earlier hypostyle structure.

The iwans on the southwestern (qibla) and northeastern sides of the courtyard are larger, rising to a greater height and also being wider. Behind the southwest iwan is a square chamber surmounted by a dome resting on an octagonal transition zone formed by eight engaged arches. Between the iwans are arched bays of irregular size and shape on two floors. Behind the arched bays in the southern quadrant of the mosque, a long corridor leads from two entrances to the arched bays on the southeast side of the courtyard.

Moreover, the exterior of the mosque is quite irregular while the facades of the courtyard are harmonious, with iwans aligned and of roughly the same size, much like the situation of the Great Mosque of Isfahan, which has also evolved over the centuries and has undergone a major evolution. renovation in the Seljuk period. Currently, the mosque has several entrances.

The oldest dated inscription on the building dates from the 12th/6th c. AH, but there remains evidence of an earlier mosque, suggesting that its original foundation may date from the 10th-11th/4th-5th c. AH or earlier.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest additions to the mosque which transformed its plan from the original hypostyle type were probably the southwest iwan and the dome chamber behind it (dated by inscriptions to 1158/553 AH and 1160/555 AH respectively).

These were inserted into the existing hypostyle prayer hall on the south-west side of the courtyard. Scholars debate the dates of the three remaining iwans, with some believing they were built in the 12th/6th century and others arguing for a later date, as an inscription in the northeast iwan dates to 1539/946 AH.

Last year, Iran put together a case for the mosque’s possible inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as the “world’s first mosque” with two floors, the tourism chief said. Ardestan.

“The Jameh Mosque of Ardestan is arguably one of the finest works of Islamic architecture in the whole country, and it should be preserved as much as possible,” the official added.

The mosque was included in the national heritage list in 1931.


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