Most of the landmarks in Isfahan have been formed during the Safavid Era. Actually, since they chose Isfahan as their capital, it was this dynasty which made this city so popular. One of the masterpieces of this period is the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which is located in Naghshe Jahan Square, right in front of the Ali Qapu Palace, which was one of the first palaces built in this city.
Sheykh Lotfollah Mosque is not just a mosque, it is an art. Its construction started in 1603 under the order of Shah Abbas the first, and it took 18 years to complete. Shah Abbas ordered to build this mosque right in front of his official palace and it became one of the four popular monuments of the Naghshe Jahan Square and one of the most significant landmarks of Isfahan.
First of all, the mosque was created for the king and the royal court. Therefore, no one could enter it for almost a century. Since Shah Abbas didn’t want to walk the square to this mosque, a hidden tunnel was built from Ali Qapu Palace to the mosque. However, it is not possible to visit the tunnel today as the passage is not in use any more.
The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is an extraordinary mosque. First of all, unlike any other mosques, it doesn’t have any minarets.
The history of using minarets dates back to the pre-Islamic era. At that time, minarets were used to find directions. Because many buildings had minarets and it was a sign of a city, anyone who saw minarets could find out that a city is on the way. But during the Islamic era, the minarets were just used for the mosques. So anyone who entered a city could find the mosque more easily.
But as mentioned before, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was used just by the royals so it wasn’t for the public people. Therefore, since they couldn’t use it, there was no need for them to find this mosque. In fact, this mosque didn’t need any minarets.
Compared to other mosques, this mosque also has another difference. There is no courtyard or interior iwans in this mosque. To keep the symmetry of the square, the designer of this mosque decided not to include any courtyard. So when you enter the mosque there is a passage that leads you to the main hall.
In the Islamic-Iranian architecture, when people enter the Shabistan they are faced to the Qibla. But as the entrance of this mosque is on the east side of the square, it was not possible to design it this way. Therefore, to solve this problem, Mohammad Reza Isfahani, who was the architect of this monument, created an L-shaped connection between the entrance and the enclosure so that when people enter the mosque they turn 45 degrees and when they enter the Shabistan they are faced to the qibla.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque has a beautiful dome. As mentioned earlier, it has one of the most circular shapes. Moreover, the interior side of the dome, which is visible from the main hall, has one of the most unique decorations which is like a peacock who has opened his colorful tail. You should stand in the center of the hall right under the dome to see how extraordinary this decoration is.
When you go inside the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, you can see walls which are decorated with colorful mosaic tiles. There are some words from the Quran written on the walls. The windows are on top, so they have different lights throughout the day. For example, when the sun lights in the morning, the light comes from the eastern window and will shine the western wall which has special words about the sunlight. And after the sunset, it will light through the western window on the eastern wall and show another special word from the Quran.
The mosque has a 400-year old gate which was built by plane tree wood. There is an inscription on the top of the door which was written by Alireza Abbasi, who was the special calligrapher of Shah Abbas. It is also decorated with azure tiles.
As the mosque is located in Naghshe Jahan Square, it is close to many other tourist attractions such as Ali Qapu, and Shah Mosque which are just a few steps away from this place. Moreover, the square itself is another great tourist attraction in Isfahan which is also one of the landmarks of Isfahan which has been registered in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The main bazaar of Isfahan is also at the same place so after visiting this religious attraction you can easily go to the bazaar and find the greatest souvenirs from Isfahan. There are also many great cafés and restaurants around this place which makes your day trip to the Naghshe Jahan Square more enjoyable.
Most of the time, there is no need to take a taxi or bus to this place as there are many great hotels near it. The greatest of all is the Abbasi Hotel which itself is a tourist attraction. It is just 2 km away from this place and can be reached on foot in 20 minutes. The Hasht Behesht Hotel is another great hotel in Isfahan which even closer than the Abbasi Hotel. The distance between the Hasht Behesht Hotel and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is only 1.4 km and can be reached on foot in 15 minutes.
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