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Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan

Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan

Located in the historic centre of Isfahan, the Masjed-e Jāmé (‘Friday mosque’) can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries, starting in ad 841. It is the oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia. The complex, covering more than 20,000 m2, is also the first Islamic building that adapted the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. Its double-shelled ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired builders throughout the region. The site also features remarkable decorative details representative of stylistic developments over more than a thousand years of Islamic art.

Masjed-e Jāme’ d’Ispahan

Située dans le centre historique d'Ispahan, Masjed-e Jāme’ ou la « Mosquée du vendredi » peut être considérée comme une illustration de l'évolution architecturale de la construction de mosquées couvrant douze siècles, à partir de 841 apr. J.-C. Il s'agit du plus ancien édifice préservé de ce type en Iran et d'un prototype qui servit ultérieurement pour la conception des mosquées à travers toute l'Asie centrale. Couvrant une superficie de 20 000 m2, elle est aussi le premier bâtiment islamique à avoir adapté la configuration des palais sassanides, avec une cour à quatre iwans, à l'architecture islamique religieuse. Ses coupoles côtelées à deux coques représentent une innovation architecturale qui a inspiré les bâtisseurs dans toute la région. Le site présente également de remarquables motifs décoratifs représentatifs des développements stylistiques pendant plus d'un millier d'années de l'art islamique.

 

Masjed-e Jāme’ de Isfahán

Situada en el centro histórico de Isfahán, la “Mezquita del Viernes” ilustra de manera sobresaliente la evolución de la arquitectura de mezquitas desde el año 841 d. de C. y a lo largo de doce siglos. Es el edificio más antiguo de su estilo en Irán y sirvió como prototipo para varias mezquitas posteriores construidas en Asia Central. El complejo, de una extensión superior a los 20.000 metros cuadrados, es también el primer edificio islámico que adaptó el diseño con cuatro patios propio de los palacios sasánidas a la arquitectura islámica de carácter religioso. Sus cúpulas abovedadas representan una innovación arquitectónica que inspiró a los constructores de otros edificios en la región. El sitio tiene además detalles decorativos representativos de desarrollos estilísticos que abarcan más de mil años de arte islámico.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Masjed-e Jāmé van Isfahan

Deze ‘Vrijdagmoskee’ ligt in het historische centrum van Isfahan en vormt een prachtige illustratie van de evolutie van de moskeearchitectuur gedurende meer dan twaalf eeuwen, te beginnen in 841. Het is het oudst bewaard gebleven gebouw van zijn soort in Iran en een prototype voor latere moskeeontwerpen in heel Centraal Azië. Het complex – van meer dan 20.000 vierkante meter – heeft een binnenplaats met vier ingangen, iets dat is overgenomen van de Sassanidische paleizen en hier voor het eerst is toegepast binnen de islamitische religieuze architectuur. De geribbelde koepels met dubbele dop vormen een architectonische innovatie die bouwers binnen de hele regio heeft geïnspireerd.

Source: unesco.nl

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Northern façade and northern eyvan of the mosque © Nomination Files/MJIB
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

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.

Integrity

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’.

Authenticity

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.