Thursday, June 30, 2011

Religious architecture in Iran: Madrasehs or Religious Schools

Reza, our guide, told us about the system of education in the madraseh or seminary as we sitting in the shaded courtyard of Madraseh-ye Khan in Shiraz. If you work hard and are academically talented, you can move through your education quickly. It is all about acquiring a thorough familiarity with a particular body of knowledge rather than taking a set number of classes or putting in a certain number of years. Usually the curriculum involves an advanced training in Shi'a theology and jurisprudence, although a number of other subjects may be included as well. Madraseh grew out of the custom of people gathering at mosques with a knowledgeable Muslim to discuss religious issues. In the Seljuk Dynasty in the 11th century, Nizam al-Mulk created a state system of madrasehs or nizamiyyehs.

Madraseh-ye Khan, Shiraz
This beautiful madraseh was built in Shiraz in 1615 by the Safavid governor of the province, but due to the prevalence of earthquakes, only octagonal entrance hall is original.



This is a perfect example of the traditional design for a madraseh: a large courtyard with a pool bounded by date palms and Seville orange trees. The courtyard is surrounded by arcades that lead to the students’ rooms.

A Madraseh of unknown name, close to the Public Bath House Museum, Esfahan
We stood outside this madraseh, whose name I never discovered, waiting for our bus. It had a beautiful example of angular Kufic calligraphy in tile work, shown above, and the stalactites on the entrance were some of the nicest I’d seen, primarily because the entrance wasn’t so huge or so tall.

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