Mosques are inseparable parts of Iranian architecture. However their advent refer to the first stages of the Islamic period, archeologists believe that their plan and even their architecture dates back to pre-Islamic time. Today, we are going to visit Agha Bozorg mosque, in Kashan, which is the onliest five-story mosque in the world. In addition of being a mosque, it is also a theological school. This site is one of the visited places in Kashan.
Agha Bozorg mosque was built during 19th century, during Qajar dynasty. According to the inscriptions, constructions lasted for 10 years. Actually, the story is that, “Mulla Ahmad Naraghi” was a famous clergymen in Kashan. He died before the birth of his last child. He got his father’s name and As his father, the child became a famous clergymen, but in order to avoid confusion he was called Agha Kuchak, junior, and his father as Agha Bozorg, senior . Then, when Mohammad Shah, the king, was visiting Kashan, he was impressed by Agha Kuchak and order to call him Agha Bozorg. Also he wanted the local governor to build a mosque and a school for him. Even, according to some historians, it could be built on the remains of an older structure, dates back to 600 years ago. Finally, 10 years later, during the reign of Naseraldin Shah, the mosque completed but through the history some changes were done.
There are interesting facts in its architecture. First, there is a new method in the plan and architecture. Second, in spite of being simple, decorations are absolutely amazing.
On both sides of the entrance there are two alcoves or stone benches, They could be used as a seat by a passerby. Above them, there is an inscribed poem. On top, another inscription can be seen which explains the Qajar king, Mohammad Shah, ordered not to pay taxes by Agha Bozorg. The door is decorated beautifully. There are about 6666 nails in it. They could add its residency against invaders and termites.
Vestibule or porch is an inevitable part of traditional houses which connects the exterior and interior parts of the buildings, acting like a hijab in the architecture. The vestibule is decorated skillfully. After vestibule there is an unroofed place which is called “Mahtabi”. This part was used during winters and is ornamented in marble stones.
Surprisingly, there are two court yards. The lower one is the central court yard of the school. Like a basement, this part is located lower than the ground. In fact it is the main feature of almost all the traditional houses in Kashan or other cities with similar climates. This technique saves the temperature, materials and space. Like other central court yards, there is pool and garden in it. It has paved with bricks and as it mentioned surrounded by classes. But, to the north there is a praying hall and a basement section. The higher yard, is in the same level with the mosque. Actually, this yard is the roof of the lower part, school. To the south, there is an Ivan, which is the main entrance and decorated with wonderful tile workings and stalactites.
As it mentioned there are three praying halls, two winter praying halls and a summer one. Winter praying halls are located to the west and north of the complex. The one to the north seems to be constructed on the foundation of a ruined structure, probably due to an earthquake. In fact this part was constructed 20 years later than the western praying hall. Unlike other mosques, here does not have a symmetric plan and also the Mihrab is located at the southwest corner, normally it should be located at the center of southern wall. Now this part is a library. In spite of regular mosques, the summer praying hall is not surrounded by walls. Just by surrounding a part of the yard. There are three large entrances and some windows. On its Mihrab there is an inscription of the date and the name of the architect.
One of the most important part of Agha Bozorg mosque is Gonbad-khane, a domed praying hall . In fact it is a double-shelve dome, even the portico has a double-shelve structure. At the top of the portico there are two small minarets, they are called “Goldasteh” and used for saying adhan. They are about 6 meters lower than the dome, which makes an outstanding view. Gonbad-khaneh is just blocked from the south, for engraving Mihrab toward Qibla. Surprisingly, this Mihrab is not located at the center, probably because it’s suggested saying prayers to the right of Imam. In spite of the exterior part, the interior part of the dome is ornamented astonishingly whit plaster works and inscriptions, which are some verses of Koran, the artist’s name and the date of working.
Agha Bozorg mosque is a unique mosque which was built during 19th century. Beside being a mosque it is also a theological school. It is a unique mosque-school constructed in 5 levels, there are 3 praying halls, 2 yards, a double-shelve dome, a garden, etc.