Standing on south side of Naghsh-e Jahan Square, Imam Mosque (previously known as the "Shah Mosque") is regarded as one of the everlasting masterpieces of Persian Architecture and an excellent example of Islamic era architecture of Iran.
Built during the Safavid period, the mosque gained its splendor mainly due to the beauty of its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. The mosque is one of the treasures featured on Around the World in 80 Treasures presented by the architecture historian Dan Cruickshank.
Upon passing a beautiful forecourt connected to the surrounding covered bazaar, visitors get to the magnificent portal decorated with delicate tile-mosaic and Moqarnas (stalactite) work and adorned with two lofty minarets as high as 42 meters which adds to the beauty of the square. On the nice panel above the portal, there exist two peacocks and a vase of flower made of finely shaped tiles as well as a great Tholth calligraphy inscription.
Entering through the great wooden gate with gold and silver façade and poems written in Nastaliq calligraphy dating back to 1636 Shah Safi (Safavid period), people pass through two corridors with about 45 degree turn to get to the main courtyard facing Qiblah (Mecca).
The courtyard is flanked with four grand Eivans (porches) and two-storey arcades which have been ornamented by polychrome square tiles and centered by a large pool showing a beautiful reflection of interior porches and arcades.
The southern porch of the mosque connects to the main sanctuary topped by an amazing double-shelled dome with fantastic tile work and calligraphy inscription and two soaring minarets. The sanctuary comprises a decorated Mehrab (prayer-niche) and a fine marble Minbar (pulpits) with fourteen steps representing the Fourteen Infallibles. The imposing feature of the dome lies in its architecture that due to the space between the two shells, it works as a semi loud speaker to make the sound of the preacher on Minbar to be heard in other parts of the sanctuary. Here, by hitting the ground to make sound, one can hear its echo seven times.
In addition, two hypostyle halls on the two sides of sanctuary, two theological schools in the southeast and southwest namely Nasserieh and Soleimanieh, two winter prayer-halls in the east and west of the courtyard, a triangle stone working as a sundial as well as large stone vases and lavers are among the other magnificent features of the mosque.
As the largest and most splendid monument with awesome symmetric tile designs, the Safavids founded the mosque as a channel through which they could express themselves with their numerous architectural techniques. The mosque can be claimed as the final perfection of the art of mosque building in Iran which is truly worthy of visiting.
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