Goharshad Mosque: Masterpiece of Islamic Architecture

Saturday, November 8, 2008
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Goharshad Mosque is one of the most famous mosques in Iran which is located in Razavi Khorasan province in the northeast of the country.

The structure is located in the architectural complex of Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. It is bound to Dar al-Siyadeh and Dar al-Hefaz to the north, to Qods courtyard to the south, to Imam courtyard to the west and to Sheikh Bahaee to the east. It was built upon the orders of Goharshad, the wife of Shahrukh of the Timurid Dynasty in 1418 CE and by the accomplished architect Ghavameddin Shirazi. Its foundation is made of brick and plaster and is one of the most prominent historical monuments of Iran due to its structural characteristics and having rich tile and scripture decorations.

The mosque has an area of 9410 square meters. It has a big azure dome, four verandas, a courtyard and seven big bedchambers. On the two sides of the cella, there are two beautiful minarets, each with a height of 40 meters. At the end of the cella, there is a big altar with a stone dado and a mosaic faience shell.

An inscription, written by Baysunqur Mirza of Timurid Dynasty who was one of the famous calligraphers of his time, still remains on the margins of the entrance of the veranda. The Sahib ul-Zaman pulpit is located in the cella of the mosque.  The pulpit has been made in 1243 lunar hejira of walnut wood and decorated with carvings.  No nail or iron is used in it.

The northern veranda of the Goharshad Mosque or Dar al-Siyadeh, which has the shallowest veranda measuring 18x12 meters, was constructed with respect to the inscription on the portal in 1087 lunar hejira during the time of Suleiman Shah of Safavid Dynasty.

The eastern veranda measuring 7x1 meters and the western one measuring 1x3 have rich tile work decorations. The mosque has a broad courtyard measuring 56x51 square meters which has been restricted by verandas and colonnades.

The mosaic faience of the courtyard with a height of 20.1 meters is covered by dark stone and the rest of the surface is decorated with tiles of flora, artistic and arabesque designs. The entire surface of these minarets, the walls and the surrounding colonnades are decorated with fine mosaic and glazed tiles produced in a variety of colors including ultramarine, turquoise, white, clear green, yellow, light yellow and ebony.

The main dome of the building constitutes two dissociated onion-like layers with short shaft and a hatchway diameter of 15 meters, circumference of 63 and thickness of 5.2 meters. The convex part of the dome’s shell is decorated with an inscription in Kufic script.

The mosque has a public library which holds 34650 volumes of books. The old library was located on the eastern side of Imam Khomeini courtyard but due to an increase in number of books and users, the new building of the library named central library was built predicting five million volumes of books and was inaugurated in 1995.

The central library with a capacity of one million volumes holds at present more than half a million books in 43 prevalent language of the world, 32000 of these books are handwritten, 1000 volumes are illustrated copies and the remaining are printed.

From among the printed books, 35000 are in foreign languages. Also there are about 27,000 microfilm rolls from valuable handwritten copies of this library and other libraries inside and outside the country including Spain.

It is to be mentioned that the museum building is located on the eastern side of Imam Khomeini courtyard. Its artifacts date back to the sixth century hejira. The museum is regarded one of the most beautiful and richest museums of Iran. Among unique artifacts of the museum is the grave stone of Imam Reza (AS) (the eighth Imam of the household of the Prophet, peace be upon him) which has been engraved in projected Kufic script in 516 lunar hejira. Also a number of tileworks with projected motifs known as Sanjari tile of the sixth century are kept in the museum.

The museum of the holy shrine has hundreds of thousands of visitors every year due to its attachment to Imam Reza (AS). A collection of carpets, small carpets and gold-woven works which were woven for Imam Reza’s grave cover and are unique in their kind are kept at this museum. The gold-woven works date back to 11th, 12th an 13th centuries.

Among precious artifacts of this museum are the inscriptions written by Ali Reza Abbasi in handwritting.

This Islamic architecture complex which is distinctive in its beauty and still stands firm after six centuries, hosts millions of pilgrims every year. The entrance porch is a continuation of the well-known “one archway set inside another” style that developed both in Samarqand and in the hands of the architects of Shiraz. This portal possesses a number of raised and recessed areas that give it extra depth and distinction.

The minarets next to the entrance porch are slightly thicker than the usual Saljuqi and il-Khani examples and stretch upwards from the surface of their marble base platform.

A large potion of the motifs includes a wide selection of geometric patterns carefully combined with arabesque and floral designs. The dome is shaped in such a way so as to be seen from a distance of one thousand feet. The decorations are carefully combined into a rich combination that is free of both dullness and confusing contrast. This is one of the aesthetic features of the building and has been achieved through the careful combination of floral arabesque motifs and a variety of geometric designs along with the hollowed and raised areas of the surrounding ravaghs and the open passageways between them.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم