(2) Historical Monuments

This section briefly describes nine landmark monuments of Kashan. Similar architectural features can be observed among them, with the exception of the Zayn-al-Din Minaret (Figure 1), which is unique in this context.

Zayn-al-Din Minaret (Manār-e Zayn-al-Din). This monument is a rare Kashan landmark surviving from the Saljuqid period, built by Ḵᵛāja Zayn-al-Din, a brother of Ḵᵛāja ʿEmād-al-Din Maḥmud, founder of the ʿEmādi Mosque (see below). Despite its historical significance, the minaret has suffered from lack of proper maintenance. Its height, which is recorded at one time to have reached 47 meters, is now only about 22 meters. It is reported that, as the minaret had begun to lean, the governor of Kashan ordered the destruction of the upper section of the monument in 1923 as a means of preserving the minaret’s structural integrity (Narāqi, 1969, pp. 266-68; Ṣāleḥ, p. 535; see Figure 1). 

Solṭān ʿAṭābaḵš Mausoleum. This tomb is attributed to a son of Imam Musā b. Jaʿfar, located at the western end of Isfahan Gate Street (Ḵiābān-e Darvāza-ye Eṣfahān). It has been dated by some archeologists to the Buyid period (Figure 2). Its extensive yard was partly destroyed in order to make room for a newly laid street. The large front balcony, the ceilings under the dome, and the porches are all adorned with stalactite decorative works. The ceiling over the balcony as well as the booths inside the shrine are decorated with drawings by Ṭāher Naqqāš, who is buried in the front balcony (Kalāntar Żarrābi, p. 431; Rajabi, pp. 83-84; Narāqi, 1969, pp. 160-64).

ʿEmādi Mosque (Masjed-e ʿemādi or Mir ʿEmād). Now known as the Mir ʿEmād Mosque, it is located on the southern side of Fayż Square (formerly Sang Square), alongside the main bazaar at the entrance of the coppersmiths market (Bāzār-e mesgarhā; Figure 3 in section 1, above). The original mosque, built in 613/ 1218 during the Saljuqid era, was destroyed during the Mongol onslaught and reconstructed in 868/ 1463 by Ḵᵛāja ʿEmād-al-Din Maḥmud, the vizier of Jahānšāh Qarā Qoyunlu (r. 1438- 67). The old prayer niche, which was in place until the beginning of the 20th century, is now kept at the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin. It bears the date 623/ 1226 and names Ḥasan b. ʿArabšāh as the individual who fashioned it in Kashan. An exquisite pulpit (menbar) made of glazed tiles stands within the dome area. An inscription in ṯolṯ script on the right side of the pulpit records the name of the artist (Ḥaydar-ʿAli Kāšitarāš) and dates it from the reign of the Timurid Sultan Abu Saʿid (r. 1459-69). ʿEmād-al-Din Maḥmud also built a number of other buildings around the city square, such as a caravansary, a ḵānaqāh, and a healing center (dār-al-šefāʾ); none has survived. Noteworthy architectural features are the facade vault, which is adorned with stalactite decorative works (moqarnas) and a symmetrical design in order to hide its deviation from the frontage center and the direction of Mecca; the engraved wooden entrance door studded with pegs; inscriptions on the walls around the facade mentioning certain royal commands by the Aq Qoyunlu, Safavid, and Qajar kings; a pulpit decorated with various monochromatic glazed tiles, with an inscription dating it from the reign of the Timurid Sultan Abu Saʿid (r. 1451-69); the vestibule, the corridors, and the open courtyard; verandas, colonnades, and the prayer sections; the brick dome representing the pre-Safavid architectural mode; the water reservoir; the prayer niche adorned with unique shining tiles from the year 623/ 1226 (fashioned by the most famous tile-makers, known as the Abu Ṭāher family); and the minaret, which was ruined by the earthquake of 1192/ 1778 (Rajabi, pp. 146-67; Kalāntar Żarrābi, pp. 95-96, 424-25; Narāqi, 1969, pp. 203-33; Ganjnameh VI, pp. 116-123; see plates i, ii, iii, iv, v).

The Friday Mosque (Masjed-e jāmeʿ). Located in an old neighborhood of the city, this mosque is the oldest historical monument of Kashan. The old city square that it overlooked was transformed when paved streets were laid down for automobile traffic. Moḥammad- Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana reports a popular tradition that gives the credit for the founding of this mosque to Ṣafiya, the daughter of Mālek-e Aštar (fl. mid-7th cent.; apud Narāqi, p. 115). The mosque, which is still in use, was damaged in the earthquakes of 972/ 1563 and 1192/ 1778, but it was repaired each time with certain architectural and decorative alterations. The minaret, built in 466/ 1073, is contemporary with the dome built by the Saljuqid grand vizier Ḵᵛāja Neẓām-al-Molk in Isfahan. It is the third oldest minaret in Iran after those of Sāva, dated 453/ 1061, and the Zavāra Mosque (Zavāra is a township in Isfahan province), dated 461/ 1068 (for an image from the mid-19th century, see Figure 3). It stands on the southeast corner of the courtyard and bears an inscription containing the date 466. It has three prayer sections, a brick dome, a special prayer compartment (maqṣura) near the prayer niche, and a pool in the middle of the courtyard (plates vi, vii; Kalāntar Żarrābi, pp. 292, 424; Rajabi, pp. 106-9; Narāqi, 1969, pp. 113-20; Farroḵyār. pp. 21-22).

Solṭāni Seminary (Madrasa-ye Solṭāni). The largest seminary in Kashan, it was built in eight years by order of Fatḥ- ʿAli Shah Qājār (q.v.) in the years 1221-29. The architect, whose name is inscribed on the southern wall under the brick dome, was Moḥammad- Šafiʿ. It is located next to the main bazaar, with direct access to its center through its own main entrance. The portal is decorated with glazed tiles and leads to the interior of the school by means of a vestibule and two corridors that end on the two sides of a balcony. The chamber for calling to prayer stands on the top of the portal. The large courtyard, with an octogonal pool in the middle, lies in the center in a north-south direction with the entrance/portal section to the east of it and the veranda, the dome, and the prayer niche to its west. Fifty-two chambers and two sizeable halls earmarked for holding classes and the gathering of seminary students surround the courtyard. The dome, made with two-layer brick work, covers the area used for prayer. Two other prayer areas flank the dome space to the south and the north. At its end is the prayer niche, which is adorned with stalactite decorative work (moqarnas), plaster inscriptions, and multi-colored, glazed tiles. There is also a water reservoir that can be reached by a forty-step staircase (plates viii, ix, x; Narāqi,1969, pp. 247-53; Kalāntar Żarrābi, pp. 94, 97, 104, 269, 301, 420).

Āqābozorg Mosque (Masjed-e Āqābozorg). This mosque, which is also used as a seminary (madrasa), was built less than fifteen years after the Solṭāni seminary by Ḥājj Moḥammad- Taqi Ḵānbān for the use of his own son-in-law, the theologian Mollā Moḥammad- Mahdi Āqābozorg Narāqi. The architect was Ḥājj Šaʿbān-ʿAli Kāšāni. A poem inscribed in nastaʿliq script on the facade of the mosque mentions the name of the founder and date that the mosque was built. In contrast to the Solṭāni seminary, which is all built on the stretch of a single storey that ends in a large dome area, this mosque is a two-floor construction with a two-level courtyard. Drawings and stalactite plaster work adorn the top of the portal. Entering the mosque through two beautifully engraved doors, one reaches the two courtyards via two long corridors. The larger pool and students’ chambers are located on the lower lever, which also contains a large basement (sardāb) with two tall wind towers (see BĀDGĪR) on the northern end. The top level holds the dome area and the covered prayer space (šabestān). Two pinnacles with chambers for calling to prayer are built on the top of the two rooms flanking the veranda of the dome area. A fine, large prayer niche, decorated with drawings and stalactite plaster work, is built at the southeast corner of the dome area. The founder’s name is inscribed on the top of the prayer niche, while another inscription states the date 1268 (1847), apparently referring to the prayer niche. Both inscriptions are done in ṯolṯ script. The mosque is also equipped with two private courtyards and a large water reservoir. The use of two separate courtyards on two different levels of the same building is referred to in Kashan as an “up-and-down” (pāyin-bālā) feature of a building (Narāqi, 1969, pp. 254- 61; Ganjnameh VI, pp. 134-43; Farroḵyār, pp. 25-26; see plates xi, xii, xiii, xiv, xv).

Jalāli Fortress (Qalʿa-ye Jalāli). This is a mud fortress built by the Saljuqid monarch, Sultan Jalāl-al-Din Malekšāh (r. 1073-92), on the western side of the city. It was attached to the city’s fortifications with one gate leading to the interior of the town and another one facing the open field outside. It was surrounded by a thick wall (ca. 6 m at the base) that was equipped with eight towers. The fortress often turned into a stronghold of rebels and unruly tribal factions. This usually occurred in the absence of a dominant central government that could impose its rule, for instance, after the fall of the Il-khanids and as recently as during the upheaval of the Constitutional Revolution. It led the founder of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Esmāʿil I, to order the leveling of its fortifications (Narāqi, 1969, pp. 297-99; Rajabi, pp. 111-12; Kalāntar Żarrābi, p. 115; Farroḵyār, pp. 64-65).

Public bathhouses. A noteworthy architectural feature of Kashan is its old bathhouses. The common architectural features of traditional bathhouses (for detailed description) included a series of interior rooms for undressing and preparation, the steam room (garm-ḵāna), and rooms for hot, lukewarm, and cold bathing. The floor was of white marble and abraded stone, and the area was paneled with marble or glazed tile. Among the more notable examples still standing today are Ḥammām-e Mollā Qoṭb (966/ 1558), Ḥammām-e ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Khan (1187/ 1773; see Figure 4), and Ḥammām-e Mir ʿEmād. The last was built by ʿEmād-al-Din Maḥmud, who also constructed the ʿEmādi Mosque (Narāqi, 1969, pp. 298-99; Kalāntar Żarrābi, p. 425; Farroḵyār, p. 58).

Caravansary of Amin-al-Dawla (Kārvānsarā va Timča-ye Amin-al-Dawla). Another notable monument in Kashan is Timča-ye Amin-al-Dawla, a marketplace in a caravansary built in 1868 by Amin-al-Dawla Farroḵ Khan Ḡaffāri (Figure 5). It is a beautifully built structure of three levels covered by a two-layer, high ceiling adorned with stalactite decoration in brick and tile. It is located at the crossroads section (čahār-sū, čār-sū) of the Miānčāl Bazaar and is accessed from the main bazaar through two large wooden doors, one connecting the cruciform section to a small octagonal yard and the other connecting to a large rectangular area (Kalāntar Żarrābi, p. 426; Narāqi, pp. 272-76; Farroḵyār, pp. 52-53).

Bibliography: See section 4.

(Mohammad- Reza Haeri and EIr. )

Originally Published: May 1, 2012

Last Updated: May 11, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XVI, Fasc. 1, p. 12-21

Cite this entry:

Mohammad- Reza Haeri and EIr., “KASHAN v. ARCHITECTURE (2) HISTORICAL MONUMENTS,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2012, XVI/1, pp. 12-21, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kashan-v2-historical-monuments (accessed on 30 December 2012).