– Location: Esfahan, Iran
– Years of Construction: 1603-1619 (early 17th century)
– Visiting hours: 9.00 – 11.30/ 13.00 -16.00 in winter and 9.00 – 12.3/ 14.00-18.00 in summer
– Best time of visit: Spring and Summer
– Address: Across Ali Qapu mansion, eastern sideof the Naqsh-e Jahan(Emam) square, Isfahan, Iran
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque Persian: (مسجد شيخ لطف الله) was completed in 1619 after nearly 20 years of work. It is a famous masterpiece of Iranian architecture, locating on the eastern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, surrounded by many other attractions. Its rich interior and exterior tile ornaments made the mosque one of the most recognizable tourist sites of Isfahan. It was built by the chief architect Shaykh Bahai, during the Shah Abbas I era of the Safavid dynasty, named after a famous Shiite preacher of those days, Sheikh Lotfollah. He was one of Shiite prominent, preachers and clergies who came from Jabal Amel in Lebanon to Isfahan. The Shah Abbas supported him and the Sheikh took up residence in Isfahan and the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque was named after him. He was also the ruler’s father-in-law.
Unlike the Imam Mosque, which was designed for public praying, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was the private mosque for the family of Shah Abbas. The doors of the mosque were always closed and guarded, so ordinary people could enter the mosque only after centuries. Shah Abbas also commissioned an underground passageway between the palace and the place of worship. This allowed the women of his harem to secretly make their passage to the mosque without being seen by passerby on the square, giving the building its nickname, the Women’s Mosque. Today, the mosque is open to everyone and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The passage underneath the field is also no longer in use.
The mosque is known for its architecture and tile working. The walls, dome, entrances of the mosque are decorated with the so-called seven-color tiles, calligraphy, inscriptions of some chapters from Qur’an, names of Imams, and poetry. The paintings and interior tiles were made by Reza Abbasi, famous Iranian artist. The dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is the most circular and most beautiful dome in the world. The pale tiles of the mosque’s dome change color, from cream through to pink, depending on the light conditions. The layout of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque has a very non-Iranian character: it has neither a courtyard, nor a minaret.
The “peacock” at the centre of the interior side of the dome is one of the unique characteristics of the mosque. If you stand at the entrance gate of the inner hall and look at the center of the dome, a peacock a peacock, whose tail is the sunrays coming in from the hole in the ceiling, can be seen.
The total area of the mosque is 1,324 sq. m. The dome is 32m in height and 12m in diameter, and is supported by massive walls 1.7 m thick. There are 16 windows around the lower part of the dome with equal size and shape and equal intervals. There is a large window located at the north of the mosque, located lower than the drum of dome. This window (aperture) not only circulates the fresh air into the mosque, but also just like flood-light brightens the Mehrab located on the opposite side southern.
In Safavid period, tile work reached its peak and most holy places were embellished by tiles. Sheikh Lotfollah mosque is one of the historical mosques of Safavid period, in which Elegant tile work has been performed and images of flowers, plants and Quranic verses have been drawn on tiles. Orange color has been mostly used in this masterpiece which invokes vitality and charm in the visitors. This mosque is the result of the artistic excellence of the architect, painter and tile worker who have applied their artistic talents for their faith in God and love of religion, so as to leave such a precious treasure for the next generations.