Here is the story of building a mosque, a special mosque with special features. The story begins with a vow. Shah Tahmasb, a Safavid king, survived from a battle, and vowed to build a mosque in order to thank his survival, but he couldn’t. he died and later his grandson, Shah Abbas the 1st the great granted his grandfather’s wish, after changing the dynastic capital to Isfahan. he built a mosque in the best place of the city, to the south of Naqsh-e Jahan square. This mosque is known as Shah mosque or Imam Mosque and it was influenced by an older mosque in Isfahan known as the old congregational mosque of Isfahan. Also the mosque is known as AL Mahdi mosque and Abbasid congregational mosque.
This mosque is a masterpiece of architecture which was built during the 16th century, during Safavid dynasty. It has a rectangular plan with two Praying Halls, 4 minarets and 4 porticos. Moreover there are two religious school to the west and East sides of this mosque known as Suleimani and Naseri schools.
Constructions lasted about 18 years, a year after the death of Shah Abbas. Also through its history some repairs were done, the newest one dates back to contemporary time. A crack appeared on the walls of the Praying hall and minarets were leaning.
Different parts of the mosque
The entrance of the mosque is located to the south of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, it is a huge vault with lots of decorations, such as tile workings, inscriptions and also stalactites. In addition there are some inscriptions that were written by the most famous calligraphist of that time, Alireza Abasi. They are about some verses of Quran, quotes of the prophets or Imams and also one of them says that “Shah Abas built the mosque with his own money and as the representative of his grandfather, Shah Tahmasb.” There are differences between tile workings and ornamentations of the entrance and other parts of the mosque, probably it refers to the hurry which they had to finish the constructions sooner. Also it has two minarets with height of 42 meters. Moreover azure is the dominant color of the entrance which is the symbol of luminary and divinity. After the entrance there is a vestibule which leads us to the Central courtyard. this place is darker than the area around it that can be assumed as the sign of going from Darkness to light. In addition in order to build the mosque toward the direction of Qibla the direction of the mosque, except the entrance, has rotated about 45 degrees from north-south direction to the southwest.
The praying hall
The most important part of the mosque is its praying hall which is located to the south. The praying hall has outstanding decorations of tile workings with floral and arabesque designs and again azure is the dominant color. At the top there is a dome which has a special feature that if one stands near a stone in the middle of the praying hall exactly under the point of the dome, he or she can hear the echo of his or her voice 6 times. Probably that refers to its double-shelved dome, there is a space of 16 meters between two shelves. Also there are two minarets with the height of 48 meters which are 6 meters higher then the minarets of the entrance. It is possible that the reason is keeping the harmony of the façade of the square. Surprisingly if you look at all 4 minarets from the other side of the square you will see all four minarets at the same height. But the highest part of the square is the dome which is about 53 meters.
As other mosques, there are two religious schools to the east and west of Shah mosque. The eastern one is known as Naseri school, because it was repaired during the 19th century by the order of the Qajar king Naseraldin Shah. The other one is called Suleimani school, probably was annexed to the mosque during the reign of Shah Suleiman, a Safavid king, or was repaired at that time.
In Suleimani school there is a stone clock which shows the exact time of praying at noon. It has said that it was invented by Sheikh Bahaei, the most famous clergyman in the Safavid court, during the reign of Shah Abbas the 1st the great.
In fact this mosque is replaced the old Friday or congregational mosque of Isfahan, dates back to Seljuq era about 800 years ago, and since that it has been used as the Friday mosque if the city and also a place for demonstrations, as it used during the Constitutional revolution during 19th century, or a place of religious ceremonies.