The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(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,”
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
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.
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
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 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.
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