Cultural Properties - Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan (Islamic Republic of Iran)
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Documents WHC-12/36.COM/8B and WHC-12/36.COM/INF.8B1,
2. Inscribes the Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), on the World Heritage List, on the basis of criterion (ii);
3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
Masjed-e Jāme’ is the oldest Friday (congregational) mosque in Iran, located in the historical centre of Isfahan. The monument illustrates a sequence of architectural construction and decorative styles of different periods in Iranian Islamic architecture, covering 12 centuries, most predominantly the Abbasid, Buyid, Seljuq, Ilkhanid, Muzzafarid, Timurid and Safavid eras. Following its Seljuq expansion and the characteristic introduction of the four iwans (Chahar Ayvān) around the courtyard as well as two extraordinary domes, the mosque became the prototype of a distinctive Islamic architectural style.
The prototype character is well illustrated in the earliest double-shell ribbed Nezam al-Molk dome, the first use of the four iwan (Chahar Ayvān) typology in Islamic architecture, as well as the textbook character of the Masjed-e Jāme’ as a compilation of Islamic architectural styles. The Masjed-e Jāme’ of Isfahan is an outstanding example of innovation in architectural adaptation and technology applied during the restoration and expansion of an earlier mosque complex during the Seljuq era, which has been further enlarged during later Islamic periods by addition of high quality extensions and decoration.
Criterion (ii): Masjed-e Jāme is the first Islamic building that adapted the four iwan (Chahar Ayvān) courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture and thereby became the prototype construction for a new layout and aesthetic in mosque design. The Nezam al-Molk Dome is the first double-shell ribbed dome structure in the Islamic empire, which introduced new engineering skills, allowing for more elaborate dome constructions in later mosque and burial complexes. On the basis of these two elements, the Masjed-e Jāme is a recognized prototype for mosque design, layout and dome construction, which was referenced in several later eras and regions of the Islamic world.
The Masjed-e Jāme’ contains a continuous sequence of Islamic architectural styles, the most prominent of which date from the Seljuq period. The remains from the Seljuq era, especially the key elements of the ground plan, the four iwans, and the two domes are sufficient to illustrate the advances in mosque and dome architecture made at the time. The boundaries of the property are adequate to encompass the entire mosque complex with all its extensions and significant functions over time. However, the integrity of the property is highly vulnerable to development projects in its vicinity. For this reason, any project proposed should be carefully assessed on the basis of comprehensive Heritage Impact Assessments and respect the historic setting and urban proportions around the Masjed-e Jāme’.
Most elements of the mosque, in particular the four iwans and the Malek al-Molk and Taj al-Molk domes, are authentic in material, design and location. Restorations and a reconstruction, which became necessary following an air raid in 1984, were carried out to an adequate standard, using traditional craftsmanship and materials. One of the most important aspects of authenticity is the function of the Masjed-e Jāme’ of Isfahan, both as a mosque, which continues to be used for prayers, and as a component of the Isfahan historic bazaar fabric. Attached to and accessed from the street network of the bazaar area, the mosque has a significant setting, the authenticity of which is highly vulnerable to changes in urban character. To respect the authenticity of spirit and feeling, the museum function of Masjed-e Jāme’ has to remain sensitive to its religious use, both in terms of information panel design and visitor numbers.
Protection and management requirements
Masjed-e Jāme’ of Isfahan is designated as a national monument (no. 95 of 1932) following article 83 of the Constitution Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1920). Likewise its buffer zone is protected by regulations set up by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, handicraft and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), following a cabinet decision adopted in 2001, which stipulates that buffer zones fall under national law. Yet, it is essential that the designated property and buffer zone is integrated in the zoning bylaws and the Isfahan urban master plan, as well as a continuous cooperation between the ICHHTO and the responsible municipal authorities is established.
The management of the property is coordinated by three bodies, a Steering Committee, a Technical Committee and the site management office. The Steering Committee consist of representatives of the ICHHTO, the Vaqf authorities, the governor and mayor of Isfahan, as well as reputable experts, and it is responsible for supervising the protection and conservation of the site. The Technical Committee has the authority to review and approve detailed project plans and schedules of activities and monitors work progress at regular intervals. The site management office is responsible for the day-to-day coordination and supervision of activities. At the time of inscription it is located in the vicinity of the Masjed-e Jāme’ but is in the process of moving into a permanent base in the mosque complex.
An integrated conservation and management plan for the property, which includes sections on sensitive visitor management and risk-preparedness strategies, should be developed and adopted with high priority.
4. Requests the State Party to:
a) Strengthen the protection of the buffer zone and wider setting and expand the monitoring mechanisms related to urban development, in particular through integration of the buffer zone in the Isfahan master plan and municipal by-laws,
b) Develop and adopt an integrated conservation and management plan, with special sections on visitor management and risk-preparedness strategies,
c) Further revise the Meydan-e Atiq project, in particular its north-western corner in the immediate vicinity of the Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, in a way that will:
i) not foresee any structural connection between the new galleries and the historic walls of the mosque or the structures connected to the mosque walls, which could transmit loads or vibrations to these,
ii) provide ample passage for pedestrians, in particular through redesign of the entrance gate situation to the Meydan in the north-western corner, to ensure that the mosque and its adjacent historic structures are not endangered by crowds accessing the square during major events,
iii) ensure that the overall design is appropriate to the local urban design tradition and setting of the mosque and sensitive to its Outstanding Universal Value, and
iv) follow a revised implementation schedule that allows for ample time to assess the revision through a comprehensive Heritage Impact Assessment and conduct further archaeological excavation,
d) Following the availability of a revised project design for Meydan-e Atiq (following the criteria listed above), conduct a comprehensive Heritage Impact Assessment to ensure that the revised project proposal does not cause any negative impact on the historic mosque structure or its setting;
5. Takes note of the statement by the State Party that the Meydan-e Atiq project will only be carried out in the part of the buffer zone that is furthest removed from the property in order to respect the Outstanding Universal Value;
6. Encourages the State Party to invite an advisory mission to assist in the revision of the Meydan-e Atiq project;
7. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
a) Ensuring that the design and presentation of information in the property are based on the principle of minimal intervention in full respect for the aesthetic and religious significance of the Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan,
b) Giving priority attention to the challenge posed by the necessary removal of the bracings in the shabestani domed areas;
8. Also recommends that Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) are carried out for any future developments in the buffer zone, such as further rehabilitation of the surrounding historic bazaar or the envisaged ablution facilities to the north-west of the mosque, in particular if these are intended to be directly attached to the mosque complex or in its immediate vicinity, to ensure that any developments do not impact adversely on the property and its wider setting;
9. Also requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2013, a report to the World Heritage Centre outlining progress made in the implementation of the demands and above-mentioned recommendations to be examined by the Committee at its 37th session in 2013.