The royal mosque, formerly called the Masjed-e-Shah was the crowning architectural achievement of Shah Abbas I who built it to complete the magnificent central square of Isfahan. The mosque is celebrated for the magnificence of its haft rang tilework and staggers the visitor with its opulence and inventiveness. The view above shows the mosque as seen from the centre of square in the late evening. Shah Abbas sadly died before it was completed, although he put enormous pressure on his builders and architects.
Some uncertainty surrounds the date on which the Mosque was started. According to Chardin work had begun in 1590, but other sources say that Shah Abbas I laid the first stone himself in the spring of 1611. 'Ali Reza, the great calligrapher, who was responsible for the inscriptions in the mosque, dated the main entrance in 1616, but work was clearly unfinished as there are records of orders being placed as late as 1630. The architect was Ostad Abu'l-Qasim. There are estimated to be 18 million bricks in the building and the rivetments are said to contain 472,500 tiles.
It represents the peak of Iranian architecture, later mosques such as the Masjed-e-Hakim are either derivative, in this case of Seljuk originals, or overly influenced by European designs as in the case of the 19th century Masjed-e-Sayyed. The great dome of Madrasa Mader-e-Shah, The Royal Theological College, which was completed towards the end of the Safavid period in 1714 derives its inspiration and splendour from this one, but the remainder of the complex is disappointing.
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