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Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque: Jewel of Safavid Architecture

Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque in Isfahan is the most beautiful religious building wherein the elaborate design serves to heighten the visitor’s spirituality rather than to distract him from it. This small mosque on the eastern side of the Imam Square, Isfahan, (built in the first years of the 17th century, restored from 1954 to 1956) and was built by Shah Abbas in honor of the great Lebanese Sheikh, who was a famous theologian of his time.
In order to face Mecca, the great domed chamber stands at 45 degrees to the Meidan (Square). One will not notice this from the portal. The enormous dome is supported by walls 170 cm. thick, and its solidity is transformed into lightness – one would even say fragility – by two features of the utmost care and daring: to a huge aperture and several high windows to trap the maximum amount of natural light, and steadily- decreasing concentric ellipses of midnight blue with delicate white arabesques vanishing to all or nothing in the center of the dome.
The mosque also differs from all others in several respects. While turquoise, blue and pink predominate in the motifs on the façade elsewhere, particularly on the dome, both inside and outside, the main color is yellow. The mosque has no courtyard nor minaret, since it was not a place for public worship. It was more of a private oratory than a mosque. The chamber itself marks the final perfection of the dome-on-square plan, now simplified and suave as required by the growing refinement of the period. What was in ground plan just a square, and could have been a monotonous cube, has been developed into a rich and highly dramatic paneled domed octagon, with contrasting treatment of the diagonal and cardinal elements.
The exterior surface of the dome is decorated with floral motifs and various arabesques designs and bear a fine inscription in Sols Style of white mosaic tiles set on a background of azure. The inner tile work of the prayer hall comprises matchless mosaic tiles and enameled brick friezes, mosaic tile inscriptions, turquoise-colored cable moldings and lattice windows of tile. The variety of designs and motifs, and different color combinations, orange and azure particularly outstanding, give this unique prayer hall with astounding beauty and magnificence. The tile ornamentations of the interior surface of the prayer hall dome are composed of lozenge and arabesque motifs of truly amazing details. The mihrab (prayer niche) is decorated with mosaic tiles and stalactites, all of the highest artistic value, and the name of the architect Mohammad Reza, is in two tablets installed inside it.
This is pure architecture, flawless and serene, and still as perfect as on the day of dedication more than three hundred years ago. No one in a receptive or contemplation mood can enter without a shock and the sense of being received into a Presence. For all its elegance and finish it has no weakness: the scale is too ample, the patterns too strong.

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