The Jameh Mosque is a veritable museum of Islamic architecture and still a working mosque. Within a couple of hours you can see and compare 800 years of Islamic design, with each example near to the pinnacle of its age. The range is quite stunning: from the geometric elegance of the Seljuks, through to the Mongol period and on to the refinements of the more baroque Safavid style. At more than 20,000 sq metres, it is also the biggest mosque in Iran.
Iwans of the Jameh Masque: Iwans are rectangular halls opening onto a courtyard. The Jameh Mosque’s south iwan is the most elaborate, with Mongol-era stalactite mouldings, some splendid 15th-century mosaics on the side walls, and two minarets. The north iwan has a wonderful monumental porch with the Seljuk’s customary Kufic inscriptions and austere brick pillars in the sanctuary.
The west iwan was originally built by the Seljuks but later decorated by the Safavids. It has mosaics that are more geometric than those of the southern hall. The courtyard is topped by a maazeneh, a small raised platform with a conical roof from where the faithful used to be called to prayer.
Jameh Mosque Domes: These domes are among the oldest parts of the mosque. In the Jameh Mosque, the room beneath the grand Nezam al-Molk Dome and the Seljuk-era hypostyle prayer halls either side just breathe history, while at the other end of the complex the Taj al-Molk Dome is widely considered to be the finest brick dome ever built. While relatively small, it is said to be mathematically perfect, and has survived dozens of earthquakes with nary a blemish for more than 900 years. To reach it you walk through a forest of imposing pillars.
Room of Sultan Uljeitu: To fully appreciate the Jameh Mosque you must go into the fine interior rooms. The Room of Sultan Uljeitu, a 14th-century Shiite convert, is home to one of the mosque’s greatest treasures – an exquisite stucco mihrabawash with dense Quranic inscriptions and floral designs. Next door is the Timurid-era Winter Hall (Beit al-Sheta), built in 1448 and lit by alabaster skylights – ask the caretaker to turn off the neon (or do it yourself) to see the full effect.
Ablutions Fountain: In the centre of the Jameh Mosque’s main courtyard, which is surrounded by four contrasting iwans, is an attractive ablutions fountain designed to imitate the Kaaba at Mecca; would-be haj pilgrims would use it to practise the appropriate rituals. The two-storey porches around the courtyard’s perimeter were constructed in the late 15th century.
Winter Hall: To fully appreciate the Jameh Mosque you must go into the fine interior rooms. Next door to the Room of Sultan Uljeitu is the Timurid-era Winter Hall, built in 1448 and lit by alabaster skylights – ask the caretaker to turn off the neon (or do it yourself) to see the full effect.