Museums of the Astan Quds Razavi
The museums of the Astan Quds Razavi are among the richest museums of Islamic Republic of Iran, and are included among the most important art and cultural centres of the Islamic world.
The Astan Quds Razavi have several active museums which are as follows:
A) Central Museum:
This museum was inaugurated in 1964. The present building of the museum was constructed in 1977 in the eastern flank of Imam Khomeini (R.A.) courtyard. In this museum precious and exquisite objects present in the treasury of the holy shrine like the old covers of the Zarih around the sacred grave, paintings, utensils made of chinaware and steel, golden inscriptions, carpets different types of old lighting instruments, a single piece of carved stone called "Sangab" dating back to the Timurid era, medals and coins are exhibited for the visitors.
The central museum possesses very old, exquisite and precious Islamic treasures and in this regard it is considered as one of the richest museums and the most important center of the Islamic art in the world.
Some of the exquisite objects of historical value exhibited in the museum are as follows:
1) The oldest tomb stone (epitaph) on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.). The inscription on it is carved in Kufic script and dates back to 516 A.H./ 1122 A.D.
2) A big circular single piece of black stone known as Sangab (water bowl made out of stone). It is 120 cms in height with a diameter of 123 cms. It was made in the reign of Sultan Muhammad Khwarezm Shah in 597 A.H./ 1200 A.D.
3) Coins dating back, both before the advent of Islam and the early Islamic era, including those struck in the name of Imam Reza (A.S.) after the Holy Imam (A.S.) was declared as heir to the caliphate by al-Mamun, the Abbasid caliph.
4) Golden epigraphs in Thulth and Nastaliq scripts inscribed by Ali Reza Abbasi, the renowned calligraphist of the Safavid reign.
5) A collection of rare green coloured chinaware called "Saladan" and precious crystal-ware, belonging to the 8th century Hijrah/fourteenth century A.D., and there after.
6) Beautiful and intricate tiles embossed with inscriptions and designs which date back to the 6th century Hijrah and known Sultan Sanjari tiles.
7) Carpets, armour, armaments and beautiful metalware objects.
The primary thing that attracts visitors to the museum is the chronology and development of Islamic arts, since most of the articles on display carry the date, the name of the artisan,or the weaver in the case of carpets, the place of origin and other important details. Every year more than two million pilgrims visit the museums of the Astan Quds Razavi situated within the precincts of the holy shrine.
Recently a three-storeyed modern building with all the necessary equipments and facilities for exhibiting the objects was inaugurated adjoined to the present central museum. The new building houses many specialized museums like: The History of Mashhad Museum, Clocks, Metallic and Warfare Objects Museum, Chinaware, Crystals and Glassware Museum, Carpets Museum, Handicrafts Museum, Painting Museum, Islamic Astronomy Museum, Coins and Medals Museum, the Stone and Tilework Epigraphs and Objects Museum and the Pearl-Oyster Museum.In the Painting Museum section of the central museum the famous original paintings of the great artist of the contemporary era, Ustad Mahmud Farshchiyan, with the titles "The Evening of Ashura", "The Fifth Day of Creation, and Imam Ali's(A.S.) Kindness Towards the Orphans", presented by the artist himself to the Astan Quds Razavi are also displayed in this museum.
B) Qur'anic Treasure Museum:
After the victory of the glorious Islamic revolution in Iran, the new Chief Reverend Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi ordered the construction of a grand new building to display the unique manuscripts of the Holy Qur'an preserved in the Central Library of the Astan Quds Razavi. The museum or the treasure of the Holy Qur'an was inaugurated on 11th February, 1985 coinciding with the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution.
It is situated on south-eastern side of the holy shrine. This museum is situated in the first floor of a duoble storeyed building occupying 400 square meters space for exhibition.
In this grand museum the unique and precious copies of the hand-written Holy Qur'an ascribed to the handwritings of the infallible holy Shi'ite Imams (A.S.) and other famous master calligraphists like Yaqut Mustasami, Baisonqor Mirza, Ustad Abdul Qadir Husaini Shirazi and Ustad Nairizi are preserved and exhibited. The visitors can view these internationally famed manuscript copies of the Holy Qur'an and get acquainted with the development and evolution in the scripts and various types of illumination of the manuscript copies of the Holy Qur'an in different phases of history.
In the museum of the Qur'anic Treasure, copies of the Holy Qur'an are preserved which are attributed to be written by the Shi'ite Holy Imams like Imam Ali (A.S.), Imam Hasan (A.S.), Imam Husain (A.S.), Imam Sajjad (A.S.) and Imam Reza (A.S.) on the deer skin. A unique copy of the Holy Qur'an inscribed on wood, a beautiful copy of the Holy Qur'an inlaid with jewels and gilded with three hundred different forms of illuminations belonging to tenth century Hijrah/sixteenth century A.D., a copy of the Holy Qur'an written by Zaheeruddin Babur, the founder of the Moghul dynasty in India and the copies of the Holy Qur'an written by some distinguished masters in the history of calligraphy, including Yaqut Musta'sami, the famous and renowned calligraphist and founder of a style during the seventh century Hijrah/thirteenth century A.D.,Baysunqur Mirza,Abdul Qader Husaini Shirazi and Ostad Tabrizi are exhibited in this museum. More than 12000 hand-written illuminated copies of the Holy Qur'an are preserved in the treasury of the Central Library of the Astan Quds Razavi, which comprises the single largest collection of hand-written and illuminated copies of the Holy Qur'an in the world.
C) The Museum of the Gifts Presented by the Paramount Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Astan Quds Razavi:
The Paramount Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatullah al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Husaini Al-Khamna'ee has presented all the gifts to the Astan Quds Razavi, which were presented to him by various heads of the state and other dignitories. These exquisite art objects and rare manuscripts are exhibited in the ground floor of the Qur'anic Treasure Museum and occupies 400 square meters space for exhibition.The objects on display in this section includes calligraphy,paintings,engravings,wall rugs,engraved metal dishes,cut glasses and delicate inlaid works.
D) Stamp and Bank-note Museum :
This museum was inaugurated on 10th February, 1991 and is situated in the lower floor of the Central Museum. In this museum, rare and valuable collection of more than fifty thousand stamps from Iran and various other countries are exhibited. It covers an area of 500 square meters and has 60 show-cases diplaying stamps from Iran and 183 countries.The first stamp printed in Iran in 1247 Solar Hijrah/1868 A.D., during the Qajar period is exhibited in the museum. The other important stamps displayed in the museum are the "Victor Castien" series printed in the holy city of Mashhad in 1901 A.D. Some other stamps on display are the "half-blocks" printed in 1875-76 A.D., during the reign of Naseruddin Shah Qajar.
E)The Museum of the History of Mashhad:
Since, the holy city of Mashhad is considered as an old and historical city, the Astan Quds Razavi endeavoured to collect the old and historical art works for the display in this museum.This museum, enjoying historical,cultural and art slides, pictures and paintings of the past, was inaugurated in 1993.
F)The Museum of the Finest Carpets:
The treasury of carpets, composed of two large halls with an exhibition space of 400 square meters each, has been located on the east side of Imam Khomeini(R.A.) Courtyard was inaugurated in 1998.This museum is enriched with 34 carpets that have a history of 500 years.The precious carpets of the mentioned museum that are in fact the manifestation of the ingenious art of the carpet weavers of Islamic Iran,have been offered to the Astan Quds Razavi by the sincere devotees of Imam Reza(A.S.).
The specialized library of the museum's situated in the first floor of the Central Museum of A.Q.R , was put into operation by the authorities with the intention of providing special resources for artists and archeologists .
According to the report drew up by the General Office of Public Relations of Astan Quds Razavi , the experts started the work of gathering the specialized sources related to the history ,art affairs, graphic, painting, and archeology, in 1997 . At the present time , the mentioned library , equipped with about 3000 copies of books and magazines , has been put into operation by Astan Quds Razavi .
According to this report , a majority part of books gathered in the library , has been presented or dispatched to the museums of Astan Quds Razavi by the Iranian and foreign visitors .
The students and researchers in different art fields , can come to the museum and benefit from the special sources of the library .
The director of the museums of astrology , painting , shell and snail , weapon and utensil pointed out that expensive price and unavailability of art books ,and the other art sources have been the main reasons for opening this library. Mrs Kafili said : " Artists , researchers and those interested in art can come to the museum in order to visit the precious things preserved in these museums , and at the same time make full use of the library's sources and facilities to accomplish their research affairs ."
Mrs Kafili , announcing that the Photo and Film Archive of the library has been expanded and promoted by the experts of the museum , added : " Specialized art photos and films are preserved in this department and given to the researchers . This department can also provide CD and also a copy of the photos for those interested ."
She also said : " It is also worth mentioning that these affairs including , gathering art books , films and photos , are carried out by our talented colleagues employed by the Organization of the Libraries ,Museums and Deeds of Astan Quds Razavi ."
It is added that the Central museum of Astan Quds Razavi has been situated in the Courtyard of Imam Khomeini (R.A.) at the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza.