Mosques are one of the inseparable part of Iranian architecture. However their history refer to the first stages of the Islamic period, archeologists believe that their plan and even architecture dates back to pre-Islamic time. Today, we are going to visit Agha Bozorg mosque, in Kashan, which is the only five-story mosque in the world. In addition of being a mosque, it is also a theological school. It is a mosque with lots of magnificent decorations visited by many tourists yearly.
Agha Bozorg mosque was built during 19th century, during Qajar dynasty. Constructions lasted for 10 years, witnessed by inscriptions. In fact, it is a mosque and a theological school as well. Actually, there is a story behind its name. it has said that “Mulla Ahmad Naraghi” was a famous clergymen in Kashan. He died before the birth of his last child, so according to a custom the name of father was chosen for the child. 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, 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.
In the architecture of Agha Bozorg mosque there are some interesting facts. One is that, it has a new method in its plan and its architecture. In addition, the decorations are eye-catching, however they are simple. And the other thing is the usage of domestic materials.
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 inscription of a poem. On top of it there is another inscription which says the Qajar king, Mohammad Shah, order Agha Bozorg to be duty free. The door is decorated beautifully. There are about 6666 nails in it. They could help the residency of the door against invaders and termites. This entrance which is located to the north is in 4 levels, 2 on the entrance, one is the winter praying hall and the other one was a theological class.
Vestibule or porch is an inseparable part of traditional houses which connects the exterior and interior parts of the buildings. In addition, it could act like a hijab for buildings and covers the interior part. In Agha Bozorg mosque, the vestibule is decorated skillfully. After vestibule there is an unroofed place which is called “Mahtabi”. This part was used during winters and is decorated with marble stones.
In this mosque there are two yards. The one which is lower 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. The same as other central court yards in Iran, there is pool and garden in it. It has paved with bricks and as it mentioned surrounded by classes of the school. 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 of this part, there is an Ivan, which is the main entrance. This part is decorated with wonderful tile workings and stalactites. In addition the summer praying hall is located in this part.
As it mentioned there are three praying halls in this place, 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. Unlike other mosques, the summer praying hall is not surrounded by walls. Just it’s built by surrounding a part of the yard. It has three large entrances and some windows. On the Mihrab there is an inscription about the date and the name of the builder.
One of the most important part of Agha Bozorg mosque is Gonbad-khane, a praying hall with a dome. 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. In addition there are some inscriptions around the dome, on the interior part, 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.