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Shah Cheragh Mausoleum
The Shiite Imam Musa al-Kazem reportedly had forty one children- eighteen sons and twenty three daughters. Of these, his son Reza, recognized by the majority of Shiites as their Eighth Imam, is the most renowned. Seyed Ahmad ibn Musa, entitled Shah Cheragh ("The King of Light"), is next to him in fame.
During the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, who is known to most westerners as the character of The Thousand and One Nights, the Khorasan governors of Iran (part of the Abbasid Caliphate at that time) struggled to gain influence as independent rulers. To put down the rebellions, Harun al-Rashid set out for Khorasan and took with him his son Mamun, who for several years was his deputy there. Before he died in Tus in Khorasan, Harun al-Rashid willed that his vast realm be divided between two of his sons: Amin, to govern from Baghdad; and Mamun, to rule from Merv in Khorasan. Even so, Harun al-Rashid's death created discord that soon developed into armed conflict between the two brothers. Mamun, in effect stripped by Amin of his rights to the succession, revolted against his brother in one of the most merciless civil wars known to the Islamic East. In order to weaken the orthodox Abbasids, who treated him as a bastard (Mamun was born to an Iranian concubine six months before his half-brother Amin was born to Harun al-Rashid's legitimate wife of Arab blood), Mamun sought support of the Iranian Shiites, who were in opposition to the Abbasids. With this in mind, he invited the contemporary Shiite leader, Imam Reza, to join him in Khorasan . However, Mamun not only failed to achieve his goal, but he found in Imam Reza's supporters another rebelling political force eager to deprive him of power. Having realized this, Mamun reversed his attitude toward Imam Reza. When the news reached the members of Imam Reza's vast family in Medina, they hurried to Imam Reza for help. They were on their way to Tus when they were trapped in Shiraz by the enemy. Most of them died in the battle; those who survived and tried to hide in the mountains north of Shiraz, were hunted down and killed by Mamun's agents. At roughly the same time, Imam Reza was poisoned. The story goes that Ahmad ibn Musa was hiding in the house then occupying the site where his mausoleum was later built, and was attacked by Mamun's stooges; he died defending his life. His house was set on fire, and the body remained under the heap of rubble and ashes. No one was aware that it was there until centuries later during the Atabakan (Salghurid) rule; it was discovered by chance in the course of terracing works. The remains were identified by a seal-ring, on which the name of the Imamzadeh was carved.
The first mausoleum, comprising a domed tomb chamber with a colonnaded porch in front of it, was built on the site in the 12th century. The construction was undertaken at the initiative of Moqarab al-Din Masud Badr al-Din, the chief minister of the Salghurid king, and sponsored by Saad ibn Zangi. Various rulers, each in his time, ordered a renovation of the building, thereby adding to the majestic beauty of the mausoleum. During 1344-1349, Shah Sheikh Abu Eshaq lnjuid's mother, Queen Tash-Khatun, who was renowned for her piety and charitable activities, built a new dome over the tomb chamber, annexed to the complex an imposing madreseh and her own crypt, granted thirty volumes of the highly artistic Quran written in golden Tholth in 1345 by Yahya Jamali, and bequeathed to the shrine (to provide its revenue) the village of Meymand, famous for its rose gardens. Nothing has survived of the Salghurid and Injuid buildings, but the Qurans have remained secure and are being preserved in the Shah Cheragh Museum. In 1506, during the reign of Shah Ismail I, the guardian of the mausoleum, Mirza Habibollah Sharifi, initiated important repairs, but in 1588 most of the renovated building collapsed in an earthquake. By the 19th century, the building had been several times damaged and refurbished. In 1824, Hossein Ali Mirza, Governor-general of Fars during the Qajar period, built a dome for the structure, which was repeatedly reinforced in the ensuing years. In 1827, Fathali Shah Qajar presented an ornamental silver casket for the tomb. At the same time, the interior of the shrine was embellished with mirrorwork, and a splendid Tholth inscription inlaid in mirror against the background of blue tiles which adorned the drum of the dome. During the late 19th century, the building was shaken by a number of severe earthquakes, and further repairs were carried out. In 1958, the dome of the building was replaced by a lighter structure with an iron skeleton, and decorated with glazed tiles as the original cupola had been; the construction was carried out using money raised by the people of Shiraz. During recent years, the complex has been greatly expanded by the addition of administrative buildings, bazaars, arcades with beautiful wooden railings along the balconies, a library, a museum, and many other structures. The courtyard was paved with stone and provided with a large pool.
The shrine itself consists of a portico on the east, a spacious, domed sanctuary with lofty alcoves on four sides, and a number of minor chambers. With its magnificent carved marble railings, graceful wooden columns, lavish tiles, stucco moldings, and mirror-work, the portico is considered an artistic masterpiece. Instead of the usual eivan, a columned portico with light columns in the style of houses in Shiraz is a distinctive feature of the city's places of pilgrimage. Two minarets, one situated at each end of the columned portico, add a note of grandeur to the mausoleum and to the spacious courtyard, which surrounds it on three sides. One of the silver gates linking the portico to the sanctuary, and bestowed upon the shrine by Zel al-Sultan, was recently replaced by an inlaid door made by Isfahan's craftsmen; the original gate was removed to the Shah Cheragh Museum. The central square core of the sanctuary is crowned by a dome about 15 m high. Its interior is ornamented with mirror work and calligraphy, and has marble floors and wall dados. The tomb, sheltered by a latticed silver casket, is located in a north alcove, rather than directly under the dome; this is a further characteristic of the Shiraz shrines.
Numerous tombs are contiguous to the mausoleum. The most famous of the people buried in the precinct of Shah Cheragh are the mystic Mirza Abulqasem Sokut; the poet Vesal Shirazi; and four of Shirazi's sons, famous artists.
The combined decorative effect of Shah Cheragh's mirror-glass mosaics, inscriptions in stucco, silver-plated doors, inlaid columns, tiled dome, and gilded minaret* tops is stunning.
* All visitors should be dressed very respectfuily, and chador is obligalory for women. Non-Muslims should ask for permission to be let in-if properly dressed, they are never refused.
Cameras are forbidden inside the shrine but permitted in the courtyard.
The museum of Shah Cheragh was founded in 1965. In 1997, a large, new hall was added to the building. The museum displays donated and bequeathed items particularly dealing with the Iran-Iraq war and martyrdom. (Among these, the personal belongings of Ayatollah Dastgheib, the preacher of Shiraz, buried in the neighboring Imamzadeh Mir Mohammad, are the most notable). Other objects on display include ancient coins, weaponry, pottery, glassware, metal ware, lamps and candlesticks, paintings, and manuscripts of the Quran.
Old Congregational Mosque - Jame-e-Atiq mosque
Founded during Amru Leis Saffarid's rule in 894, the Old Congregational Mosque is the oldest edifice in Shiraz. However, like most ancient buildings in the city, it was repeatedly shattered by earthquakes and other natural calamities, and every time it suffered such damage, it was carefully repaired. Virtually all the original structure, except perhaps the main sanctuary, has disappeared, and most of the current building dates from no earlier than the late 17th century.
The mosque has six gates: two on the east side, two on the west, one on the south, and one on the north. The most important entrance is to the north; it is called the Gate of the Twelve Imams because of the portal, which lists the names of the Twelve Shiite Imams on four ceramic tiles. This entrance is also remarkable for its splendid muqarnas, and for a long inscription on fine mosaic tiles along its interior surface.
The inscription, dated 1621, refers to the repairs undertaken in the mosque at the expense of Imam Qoli Khan, the celebrated Governorgeneral of Fars during the rule of Shah Abbas the Great. The inscription is the work of Ghias al-Din Ali Gowhari, the remarkable calligrapher of the Safavid period. The portal leads to an anteroom with a beautiful groined ceiling highlighted by ochre paint, and then to the central courtyard.
The structures of the mosque are arranged around the courtyard, which measures 75 m long and 55 m wide, and stretches in a north-south direction. The courtyard is paved with cobblestone, and features three small pools; the central pool is octagonal, and the two side pools are dodecagonal (twelve-sided).
The mosque has three eivans, the most highly ornamented of which is on the north. Popularly known as Taq-e Morvarid ("The Pearl Arch''), it is decorated with tasteful brick muqarnas and surmounted by a pair of squat minarets. A tiled double inscription in Naskh and Tholth citing verses from the Quran runs along the upper edge of the eivan's arch. To the west of the north porch there opens a corridor linking the Gate of the Twelve Imams with the court. Beyond it are five blind arches, behind which there is a very narrow hall which today houses the administrative offices of the building. On its eastern side, the north eivan is flanked by a recently-built prayer hall, measuring 30 m by 17 m. The roof of this hall is supported by slender columns, and is decorated with lovely tilework. The hall's north wing has a wide balcony overlooking a stone mihrab.
The west side of the mosque is highlighted by an arcade, whose single arch opens onto a corridor which links it to the old entrance gate and the neighboring bazaar.
The south eivan of the mosque has almost collapsed. It leads to a prayer hall with balconies on two sides. The rear wall of the hall features a mihrab, decorated with muqarnas of blue tiles. Flanking the mihrab are two stone columns with spiral shafts, typical of the Zand period. Behind the mihrab stands a minbar with thirteen steps.
To the east of this prayer hall is located another ancient section of the mosque. Supported by forty bulky stone pillars, this hypostyle prayer hall measures 45m long and 32m wide. Near the entrance to the prayer hall, decorated with tiles from the Safavid age, runs an inscription proclaiming the repairs made at the order of the Safavid king, Shah Tahmasp I. Another inscription above the door leading from the anteroom to the south prayer halls belongs to the time of another Safavid ruler, Shah Abbas I.
Separating the prayer halls is a narrow vestibule. Under the vestibule and the halls is a basement, where another prayer hall was formerly located; this, however, is no longer used.
To the east of the south gate a large prayer hall was recently built. Particularly beautiful are its marble mihrab and another mihrab decorated with thirteen tiled inscriptions in Tholth and Naskh; these cite verses from the Quran and traditions from the Prophet's teachings. This hall is 45m long and 35m wide, and is supported by twelve columns.
The east eivan of the mosque was built in 1624, in the time of Shah Abbas I, but was restored recently. It is decorated with ornamental strips of blue tiles geometrically arranged. Inside, the eivan features an array of shallow wall niches and a staircase leading to the rooftop of the mosque. On the outside, the eivan is flanked by four arches on either side; one of these arches (that on the right) serves as an entrance gate. The mosque, however, is best known for a free standing structure in its courtyard, usually referred to as Khoda-Khaneh ("God's House").
It was built at the time of Shah Sheikh Abu Eshaq Injuid in 1351. According to another account, the chamber where the Qurans were preserved was already in existence by the lnjuid period, and Sheikh lnju only expanded it. The building was repaired in 1625 at the order of Shah Abbas I, and was skillfully restored in the 1940s. It is known that the renowned poet Hafez was once supervisor of the Khoda-Khaneh, where some of the most valuable manuscripts of the Quran were preserved. These manuscripts are now to be found in various museums and private collections.
The structure measures 12 by 10 m, and consists of a central chamber 8 by 6 m, enclosed by an arcaded veranda 2 m wide. On the north and south sides, the veranda is supported by two columns, while on the east and west sides, it is upheld by two pairs of columns. The middle chamber has latticed stone windows.
At the four corners, the structure is supported by short, cylindrical turrets, which give it a strong resemblance to the Kaaba in Mecca. The Khoda-Khaneh also is very similar to the Mausoleum of Sheikh Yusuf Sarvestani.
The structure is made of quadrangular stone blocks, and is greatly influenced by Sasanid building traditions. The Tholth inscription around the upper part of the building is executed in raised stone letters, with turquoise tiles filling in the sunken interstices. This inscription is unique; there are no other examples of this art in Iran. It is the work of Yahya Jamali, a welknown calligraphist during the Jalayrid rule, and is dated 1351. It extols the value of the Quran, and mentions the merits of Shah Sheikh Abu Eshaq lnjuid.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
The construction of the Nasir al-Mulk complex, which included a mosque, a house, a bath, and a water cistern, lasted from 1876 to 1887. Sad to say, the greater part of it, comprising the andaruni and entrance sections of the house, the bath, the cistern, and the passageway between the house and the mosque, was demolished during the construction of modern Lotfali Khan Zand Street - a dreadful historic and artistic loss.
Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al-Mulk was the third son of Qavam al-Mulk, the powerful ruler of the regions of Fars and Kohkiluyeh va Buyer Ahmad during the Qajar period. He seems to have built the complex in lieu of the money which was supposed to be his obligatory religious payment, and which was refused in cash by the clergymen.
The Nasir al Mulk Mosque is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Shiraz, and perhaps in
the whole of Iran. According to the mosque's historical inscription at its entrance, the construction was carried out by the architect Hajj Mohammad Hasan and the tile-cutter Mirza Reza, of Shiraz.
Dating from the Qajar era, the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque illustrates both continuity with the architectural forms of the Zand period, and originality in the displacements of units. Zand features survive in the rectangular courtyard of good proportions, the use of two eivans on the north and south, and the enclosed prayer halls on the west and east. A marked eccentricity occurs, however, in the positioning of the entrance and the treatment of the two eivans.
The mosque is entered through a massive, rectangular portal with tiled, recessed panels framing a magnificent muqarnas lined niche. The entrance is asymmetrically situated to the extreme west of the northern side, and leads to the main courtyard via a vaulted vestibule which turns at a sharp angle to open into the northwest corner of the courtyard. In the center of a well-tended court is a rectangular pool with a stone fountain.
Within the court, the east and west sides present an uninterrupted flow of single-storied arcades. The treatment of the north and south sides is, however, unusual in that the most complex and elaborate treatment is devoted to the north and not to the south, qibla side, as had long been an established tradition in all Iranian mosques. The north eivan consists of a central porch flanked by two stories of arched niches which reach the same height as the spring of the porch's arch. Within, the eivan extends back deeply, even beyond the outer limit of the entrance, and focuses on a mihrab-like niche. The entire surfaces of the north side are encrusted with polychrome faience, and every vault here features exquisite tiled muqarnas. An interesting effect is also produced by a combination of brick-bonding patterns and tilework. The oblique outer east-west axis of the north side has also permitted a series of additional rooms to be included beside the north eivan without interrupting the rectangular plan of the main court.
This is a good example of the flexibility of this type of plan. The south side in contrast is modest, consisting of a series of six adjoining niches of various sizes, three niches on each side flanking a central indented niche which contains the mihrab.
The south eivan is emphasized by a pair of squat, tiled minarets. Graceful Tholth inscriptions and carvings of the marble dados around the courtyard are among the other remarkable features of this beautiful mosque.
One of the most dramatic sections of the mosque is its west prayer hall. It is best visited in the early morning, when the light streams inside through seven stained glass latticed doors, and falls in colorful patches against the interior. The prayer hall is supported by twelve stone columns with spiraled shafts and acanthus-leaf capitals, closely resembling the pillars of the Vakil Mosque. Tiled panels on the walls of the hall, featuring typical Qajar designs, add to the beauty of this section of the mosque. The vaults of the central aisle are especially handsome, highlighted by floral medallions of pink, blue, green, yellow, and white - embracing the entire gamut of Qajar polychrome faience. This prayer hall also features the main mihrab of the mosque.
The prayer hall on the east side is much simpler. It is separated from the courtyard by a vaulted gallery adorned with brick-and-tile patterns in black and blue. Today this prayer hall features a permanent exhibition of the objects at the disposal of the Nasir alMulk Endowment Foundation.
Behind the east prayer hall are two wells, one of which is more than 60 m deep. In the past, its water used to be drawn out by two cows - hence its appellation as the Cow's well. The water was emptied into the pool in the center of the courtyard, and was also collected in a water storage reservoir.
Imamzadeh Seyed Taj al-Din Gharib
Some of the 19th-century chronicles mention the real name of Seyed Taj al-Din Gharib as Seyed Jafar ibn Fazl. His crypt was built during the Qajar period, and is particularly famous for the remarkable tile work of religious content decorating its entrance portal. The tilework dates from 1892. The portal leads to a relatively small, square courtyard. The shrine is located opposite the main entrance and is linked to the courtyard via a roofed terrace. The terrace is paved with marble and ornamented by tiles on its columns and vaults. Inside, the shrine is completely encrusted with glittering mirror-work, though it yields in quality to the mirror-work of the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum and Astaneh. The sanctuary is surmounted by a pointed dome, tiled on the outside and lavishly adorned with mirror mosaics on the inside. The grave of the Imamzadeh is enclosed in a silver casket. To the left of the shrine is located a hosseiniyeh, and behind it is a small court surrounded by chambers which in the past housed a theological college and nowadays lodge pilgrims to the site.
Imamzadeh Seyed Ala al-Din Hossein - Astaneh
Astaneh ("The threshold") of Seyed Ala al-Din Hossein is the second most import pilgrimage center in Shiraz after Shah Cheragh. This shrine is the last resting place of the Seventh Shiite Imam's son, and Shah Cheragh's stepbrother. Legend has it that Seyed Ala al-Din Hossein came to Iran in the early 9th century A.D. to support another stepbrother, Reza, the Eighth Shiite Imam, and was about to set out for Mashhad, when he was treacherously murdered in one of the gardens of Shiraz by the stooges of the local governor. Seyed Ala al-Din's followers cautiously buried his body on the site where his mausoleum now stands.
The first shrine on Seyed Ala al-Din Hossein's burial spot was built in the late 14th century. This simple structure was rebuilt in 1517 - the date mentioned in one of the mausoleum's historical inscriptions. Under Shah Tahmasp I Safavid, the structure was further expanded and lavishly decorated by Mirza Ali, a painter from Medina, who also bestowed several properties on the shrine to provide it with revenue. During the Zand and Qajar periods, the earthquakes that occurred in Shiraz caused considerable damage to the edifice, which was rebuilt several times. However, despite efforts, the threat of the dome's crumbling increased daily until in 1950 it was taken down. Subsequently, in 1952, a lighter dome with an iron skeleton was placed in position. During the ensuing years, this was covered with enameled tiles to recreate the appearance of the original structure. In 1967, a high clock-tower was built to the south of the building.
Imamzadeh Ali ibn Hamzeh
Overlooking the Dry River and linked to the south bank of Shiraz via an ancient bridge, currently known as the Ali ibn Hamzeh Bridge, Imamzadeh Seyed Emir Ali ibn Hamzeh is one of the most esteemed shrines of the city. The building allegedly houses the grave of Emir Ali, son of Hamzeh and nephew of Shah Cheragh. He is reported to have been on the way to Khorasan, trying to provide military support for the Eighth Shiite Imam Reza, when his army was defeated, and he had to seek shelter in the mountains north of Shiraz. Ali ibn Hamzeh is said to have hidden in a cave in Mount Baba Kuhi, and to have come to the city only to sell the brushwood he collected in the mountains as a means of earning his living. During one of these visits, he was pursued by the caliph's agents, who discovered his refuge and brought soldiers there. When questioned, the Imamzadeh boldly confessed his name, and was instantly struck down because he belonged to the Imam's family. Legend has it, however, that with his head gashed, Ali ibn Hamzeh did not die immediately. He passed away three days later on the site where his shrine stands today, and where he was buried secretly by his followers. Until the Buyid period his grave was forgotten, but in the 11th century a splendid mausoleum was created here at the order of Fatima Khatun, sister of Azod al - Dowleh Deilamite. At that time the mausoleum was turned into the Buyid family crypt. The first king buried there was Ali Emad al-Dowleh, the eldest of the three brothers who founded the Buyid dynasty. During the Safavid and Zand periods, the mausoleum was greatly enlarged. Karim Khan added to it a caravanserai and a bath; these were, however, demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1824, the majestic, ancient building was destroyed in an earthquake. It was built anew in 1844 at the order of Hossein Ali Mirza, the Governor- General of Fars, who spent on the construction the money gained from a treasure-trove found near Sarvestan. The building was repaired in later years; the magnificent mirror-work of its interior is essentially modern.
The complex is entered via a tiled portal with an antique, inlaid door, opening onto a vaulted octagonal anteroom. Above the door linking the anteroom to a courtyard (on the courtyard side) is a red stone plate with a tholth inscription of outstanding quality, written by Ibrahim Sultan, son of Shahrokh Timurid. It says: "Someone said to Ibrahim (Peace Be upon Him): "For what did God take you as His friend?" He replied: "I never dined nor supped but with a guest.”
The courtyard measures 60 m long and 30 m wide, and is almost three times as extensive as the roofed areas of the complex. In the middle, it features a stone pool for ablutions, and several stout trees. The rest of the courtyard is covered with gravestones, some dating from the 19th century. Today it costs a small fortune for families to buy the right to bury their deceased here. On the east and west, the courtyard is adorned by rows of plain blind arches, and an imposing arcade marks its south side.
The shrine, distinguished by a tiled, bulbous dome and a pair of minarets, stands on the north of the courtyard and is slightly elevated above the courtyard level. There are two parts in the shrine: the cross-shaped principal area; and a number of rows, vestibules, and arched recesses, which form the entrance section. Like the entrance door of the complex, the main door to the shrine is of wood, with inlaid patterns. Inside, every surface of the shrine is encrusted with mirror mosaics. Mirror-work, stained-glass windows, fretted wooden doors, and dados of green marble add to the overall beauty of the shrine.
The center of the cruciform area is surmounted by a high dome with an inscription in white letters against a blue-tiled background along its base. The grave of the Imamzadeh, covered by a casket of inlaid wood and steel, stands beneath the dome, and not in the north alcove, as is customary in other mausoleums of Shiraz. The east and west limbs of the cross are topped by low cupolas and surrounded by four shallow niches. This makes the structure appear to be comprised of three domed sanctuaries. However, the size of the side chambers and the style of their vaulting, instead of distracting the visitors' attention from the principal sanctuary, turn their attention directly to it.
A large cemetery called Javanabad used to be situated beside the mausoleum, but in 1926 its north section was given to the Fars Art School. One of its rooms still houses the tombs of Karim Khan Zand's sons, who died in 1771 and 1777.
Bibi Dokhtaran Mausoleum
This mausoleum houses the grave of Bibi Dokhtaran, reportedly the daughter of the fourth Shiite Imam, Zein al-Abedin.
The structure was built during the Mozaffarid period by Khatun Qatlagh Beik, the pious wife of Emir Mobarez al-Din and mother of Shah Shoja. Sad to say, little has survived of the original structure after the repeated and often excessive repairs.
In its current state, the building is square, and is pierced with doorways on either side. On its upper tier, it has balconies, delicately emphasized by fretted wood railings and stucco moldings. The square core is surmounted by an octagonal superstructure (or rather, a square with cut-out corners), which in its turn is crowned by a shallow, pointed dome on a high drum. Patterns of brick and tile add to the overall beauty of the building's exterior.
Inside, the structure has a cruciform plan, with a casket of inlaid wood at the center. The tombstone itself seems to be located in the basement, but this is always closed to the public. The deep alcoves around the central square core feature balconies of fretted wood. Running around the perimeter of the building and visually highlighting the border between the lower and upper tiers is a beautiful Naskh inscription. The interior is lit by latticed wooden windows pierced in the dome base.
The Regent's Mosque is one of the most beautiful Karim Khan's creations in Shiraz. It is significant not only as a major religious building of the Zand period, but also as the only important building of its kind to be constructed in late 18th century in Iran. The mosque has taken its current shape after several stages of construction and restoration. It was begun late in Karim Khan's reign, perhaps around 1766. According to some documents, the Vakil Mosque was built on the site of an earlier Safavid building. The Vakil Mosque was completed under the Qajars in the 19th century, and damages inflicted by the earthquake of June, 1824, were repaired soon afterwards. Later restorations of the entrance tilework and that of the eivans were carried out during 1827-1828 by Fathali Shah's son Hossein Ali Mirza, then Governor general of Fars. This work is recorded in several inscriptions - left on the entrance alcove, on two panels west and east of the north eivan, around the south eivan, and on the mihrab. Inscriptions also give evidence of yet another period of restoration following the earthquake of May, 1855. A frieze running along the upper border of the south porch contains the date 1856, in the reign of Naser al-Din Shah. This evidence of a later restoration is supported stylistically by the tilework surrounding the mihrab, which is in the high "Victorian" style developed under this monarch.
Despite all its exuberant Qajar superstructure, the Vakil Mosque, remains in plan and artistic treatment a perfect Zand edifice; there are certainly enough features to distinguish it from the preceding and subsequent architectural styles. It is remarkable for its generous spatial area and for the elegant proportions of its architectural units. The decorative treatment of the Zand religious buildings is also less conventional and more secular in type than that of the earlier mosques, bunches of flowers and bright colors being largely employed in the faience which depended more upon the splendor of polychrome than upon hieratic correctness.
The mosque occupies an area of 8,660 m². It is entered from the north through a recessed entrance, the upper vault of which is adorned with tiled Muqarnas. The portal also features lavish tilework, cable-shaped stone friezes, and fine calligraphy. Its wooden gate, with the wings as high as 8 m, is a replica, a copy of the original door from the Zand age broken by a cannon ball during the Qajar period.
A vestibule behind the entrance has two passages which lead into the courtyard set at an angle of almost 90° in relation to the axis of the portal. This rotation, essential for realigning the mosque toward qibla while maintaining the harmonious integrity of the entire complex of Zand structures, is so masterfully designed as to be almost imperceptible to the visitor.
The courtyard is rectangular, 120 by 80 m, with a long pool in the center. Around the perimeter, the court is lined with finely proportioned arcades and columned galleries, highlighted on the upper edges by brightly-colored tilework, most of which was replaced after the Zand age. The north and south sides of the court feature lofty eivans. The lower parts of the porches and arcades are faced with marble slabs, finely carved in relief, with splendid floral motifs.
The eivans are rectangular structures with a deep central recess, which is drawn into a pointed arch by faceted vaulting. The eivans are similar, except for a pair of minarets crowning the north porch, but these seem to be a later addition. The north eivan is popularly called Taq-e Morvarid ("The Pearl Arch"), and this appellation seems to be a tradition in the mosques of Shiraz, since we also find this name in reference to the north eivan of the Nasir al Mulk Mosque. The south eivan leads to a large, covered prayer hall, for which the building is most famous. This prayer hall extends the width of the structure, and is 75 m long and 36 m wide. In contrast to the rest of the edifice, which is of baked brick, it is supported by forty eight stone columns with spiral shafts terminating in acanthus leaf capitals. The marble stone for these columns was brought from Azerbaijan and Yazd. The columns reach 5 m in height.
The mihrab is a recessed, tiled niche centered in the back wall of the prayer hall. It is approached by a vaulted aisle, profusely adorned with colorful faience, which distinguishes it from the other, undecorated area. The mihrab is covered with remarkable tilework having pink as the dominant color. It features tiled panels showing masterfully-painted leaves and flowers potted in vases, which themselves bear designs of landscapes and religious buildings. The mihrab is flanked by deep, tiled niches, carved at various elevations on either side. These niches are ascended by staircases of green marble, and serve as minbars*. The minbar* on the left is particularly notable. It is climbed by fourteen steps cut out of a single great block of marble. Karim Khan is reported to have joked that this minbar* cost him more than if it had been made of pure gold.
The lavish use of stone is an atypical feature for the Iranian mosques prior to the Zand period - these used stone sparingly, and mainly for decorative purposes.
Another prayer hall of the Vakil Mosque is located on its east side. Artistically unremarkable, it was originally used during the wintertime, but currently accommodates worshippers throughout the year. It is 25 m long and 20 m wide, and is supported by twelve stone columns. The entrance from the courtyard is usually locked, but the prayer hall can be entered from the bazaar lane behind the building.
The plan of the Vakil Mosque is completed by a small patio in its northeast corner, housing the service sections, and mainly used by the mosque's caterers.
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