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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Unprofessional restoration works on the dome of Safavid Shah Mosque in Esfahan have caused its 400-year-old tiled surface to corrugate


08 August 2010



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  Masjed Shah (Shah Mosque) in Esfahan

(Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Tiles covering the southern surface of 52 meters high bulbous dome of the Shah Mosque in Esfahan are slowly corrugating downward, creating distinct curves which can be seen even at a great distance, the Persian service of ISNA reported on Friday.


“Unfortunately, signs of damage have appeared on the surface of the dome on the south side of the structure, which is subjected to long-term exposure from atmospheric conditions like wind, rainfall, and the sun,” claimed Hamid Mazaheri in speaking with ISNA.


“The tiles are getting cold and hot by the rainfall and sun. Over time, this change in temperature has caused the tiles to separate from the main body of the dome, causing them to creep downward,” he added.


However, experts believe that the curves and damages began to appear after a large number of new tiles were installed on the dome in 2007, which has nothing to do to with the atmospheric change, as this issue had never accrued in the past 400 years.


According to Hossein Mosadeq-Zadeh, a restorer who carried out some work on the dome, the current problem is partly caused as the result of the authorities’ negligence.


“Over 20 years ago, we began work on 16 cracks on the dome, which took us 5 years to repair 13 of them. I have asked the authorities to permit us to complete our work and fix the remaining 3 cracks to prevent any future damages, but Esfahan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department (ICHTHD) refused my proposal.”


Five years later, ICHTHD commissioned urgent and complete restoration work on the mosque which took 16 years to complete. However, it is believed this restoration was carried out by an unprofessional team with no expertise in the field, resulting in damages to the dome.


The use of wrong techniques and materials such as heavy mortar for installing the tiles has caused wide cracks in the ceiling. Many of the new tiles used in the restoration are of poor quality and do not even represent the true colours of the original tiles (see fig).


Experts have warned that catastrophic irreversible damage is expected.


The original and major restoration of the mosque was carried out during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, where it was professionally restored using the traditional materials and techniques.



Shah Mosque

The Shah Mosque was built during the Safavid period and it is internationally applaud as an excellent example of Iranian architecture of the Islamic era of Iran and regarded as one of the masterpieces of the Persian Architecture.


The mosque was designed by architect Ostad Ali-akbar Esfahani in a traditional Iranian four-Iawn format with a courtyard at the centre, to commemorate 24 years of Shah Abbas the Great on the throne. The work began in 1611 and was completed in 1637 during the reign of Shah Safi.


The splendour of the Shah Mosque is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions, works of Safavid master calligraphers such as Alireza Abbasi and Ali Emami.


During the 1844 earthquake the southern minarets separated from the main body of the mosque and caused extensive damages including the appearance of a large crack in one of the Iawns. A year later Mohammad Shah Qajar ordered superficial restoration work to carried hide the crack with tiles. However, in 1932 the superficial restoration tiles collapsed and the cracks were wider than before.


Reza Shah Pahlavi, ordered a team of professional restorers led by the leading architect of the time specialised in the field, Ostad Hossein M'arafi to restore the mosque to its former glory. The fastening and securing of the minarets, closing the cracks using the modern technology and restoration of the tiles using traditional materials and techniques were completed in 1936. Thereafter continuous maintenance and routine checks were in place until the collapse of the Pahlavi Dynasty in 1979.


The mosque which is part of Naghsh-e Jahan Square historical complex was registered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.


The name of the Shah Mosque is the short for the original name of Shah Abbasi Jama Mosque. In recent years however the Islamic regime has renamed the 400 years old historical mosque to ‘Imam Mosque’ after Ruholah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, which has shown to be one the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world.






Original news bulletin published by Mehr News and ISNA rectified, translated and edited by CAIS [*]




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