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

TEHRAN – Named after an oasis town in the heart of the Iranian Plateau, Jameh Mosque in Ardestan is still one of the best preserved places of worship with a variety of ancient architectural styles.

Located in the province of Isfahan, Ardestan was one of the most flourishing cities of the region in the Middle Ages, mostly famous for its pomegranate and silk production.

The two-story hypostyle mosque is an early Islamic structure with many achievements throughout its long history of use. It includes the successive architectural styles of the Sassanids, Buyids, Seljuks, and Safavids.

However, most of what visitors see is from the Seljuk period (about 1040-1196). According to Encyclopædia Iranica, much of the Seljuk decoration is concentrated in the sanctuary, while the dome chamber closely follows the model of the Isfahan school with its numerous lower openings and transitional zones.

The community mosque has a courtyard with four porches (iwan) surrounded by arches. However, the cistern is part of larger buildings that also include other mudbrick structures such as the caravanserai, bazaar, hamam and madrasah.

According to Archnet, the earliest plaster pieces found in the western corner of the courtyard are from the 10th/4th century. dated to the end. AH. The interior of the dome room and the iwan is covered with plaster to a large extent. The dome and transition zone are articulated with simulated brickwork; The iwan dome is uniquely faced with an intricate stucco design of interlocking arabesques. The mihrab exemplifies ingenious plaster carving and may represent Mongolian restoration.

The mosque stands in an area once occupied by a Sassanid structure, as evidenced by remains discovered during archaeological excavations. Its earlier structure was probably a hypostyle type and had a central courtyard surrounded by arches. The remains of some of these porticos in the present mosque show that they were covered with barrel vaults. The mosque has an irregular area centered on a rectangular courtyard with four iwans containing parts of the previous hypostyle building.

The iwans on the southwest (qibla) and northeast sides of the courtyard are larger, higher and wider. Behind the southwestern iwan is a square room covered with a dome resting on a transition zone formed by eight octagonal arches. Between the iwans, there are two-storey, vaulted bay windows of irregular size and shape. Behind the vaulted iwans in the south quadrant of the mosque, a long corridor passes from the two entrances to the vaulted spaces on the southeast side of the courtyard.

In addition, while the exterior of the mosque is rather irregular, the facades of the courtyard are harmonious, the iwans are aligned and roughly the same size, not unlike the situation in the Isfahan Grand Mosque, which has also developed and undergone a great change over the centuries. Repair in the Seljuk period. Currently, the mosque has several entrances.

The earliest inscription on the building belongs to the 12/6th century. AH, but evidence of an older mosque remains, which is 10-11/4/5-5 of its original foundation. It suggests that it can be dated to the 19th century. AH or earlier.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the earliest additions to the mosque, which changed its plan from the original hypostyle type, were probably the southwestern iwan and dome room behind it (dated by the inscriptions 1158/553 H. and 1160/555, respectively).

These were placed in the existing hypostyle prayer hall on the southwest side of the courtyard. Scholars debate the dates of the three remaining iwans, some believe they were built in the twelfth/sixth century, while others argue a later date as an inscription in the northeast iwan is dated to 1539/946 H.

Ardestan’s tourism chief said Iran prepared a dossier last year for a possible inscription of the mosque on the UNESCO World Heritage list as the “world’s first” two-story mosque.

“The Jameh Mosque in Ardestan is arguably one of the best works of Islamic architecture in the entire country and should be preserved to the greatest extent possible,” the official said.

The mosque was inscribed on the national heritage list in 1931.


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