Saturday, July 2, 2011

Religious Architecture in Iran: Shrines and Tombs

Alaviyan Dome (without the dome), and Tomb, 12th century, Hamadan
This brick building was constructed to hold the tombs of the prosperous Alaviyan family of Hamadan in the crypt. It is believed to have been built in the 12th century, during the Seljuk Dynasty, but to have had the stucco work added in the Ilkhanid period during the 14th. It is not clear when it lost its dome. The scaffolding distracts from the nice architectural features of this tomb. The stucco work on the inside was excellent.

Oljeitu Khodabaneh Mausoleum, built in 1306-1312, Soltaniyeh near Zanjan
Oljeitu of the Ilkhanid Dynasty, built this mausoleum with the intention of bringing the tombs of Imams Ali and Hosein, the first and third Shi’a Imams who were killed and buried in Najaf and Kerbala in Iraq, back to rest in Iran. The towns refused and so Oljeitu decided to use the tomb for himself. He was buried here in 1317.
This octagonal building, built of brick, was was the first to completely cover the outside of the double-shelled dome as well as the stalactites at the entrance with turquoise tiles. The inside was decorated with bricks, tiles and stucco. A vaulted gallery runs around the base of the huge egg-shaped dome; the gallery is decorated with the red geometric carved and painted plasterwork designs I like so much.They almost look like quilts in these photographs.

Bogheh-ye Seyed Roknaddin Tomb (or Imamzadeh Rokna al-Din), dating to 1325, Yazd
This is the tomb of Seyed Roknaddin Mohammed Qazi, a local Islamic notable. It was not unusual for wealthy citizens to build what are called imamzadeh, which refers both to a descendant of an imam and to the place where he is buried. Unfortunately we only saw this tomb in passing. The tile work on the dome was just lovely, in spite of the electrical wires obscuring the view.

Astan-e Qods-e Razavi Complex or The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza who died in 816, Mashhad
We weren’t allowed to see the most famous of the buildings, being non-Muslims. So the shrine where Imam Reza is buried and Gohar Shad’s Mosque built between 1405 and 1418 were off limits. Gohar was wife of Timurid Shah Rokh who ruled from 1405-1447. The complex continues to expand with museums, mosques, and reception areas for foreigners.

We had our first and only chance to don light blue chador and move through the rain like slightly clumsy jellyfish. And to brave the extremely crowded women’s checkpoints where we were patted down and questioned as though we might be carrying explosives. Interestingly, we weren’t allowed to bring cameras into the complex, but we could bring cell phones with built-in cameras. So even though I couldn’t use my cell phone as a phone in Iran, I could use it as a camera.

Monitors in uniforms, armed with brightly colored feather dusters, were around to direct the multitudes of pilgrims visiting the complex and to make sure that everyone was obeying the various regulations.

The complex has a large number of volunteers who offer their time every week to help keep the site spotless. Can you see this fellow cleaning the chandelier?

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