Essential Architecture-  Iran

Great Mosque (Masjid-I Jami)






8th to 17th c.


Islamic Buyid, Safavid, Seljuk  Persian




  Plan in 10th c.and present plan (Iwans added in 1125)
  Aerial view
  North Dome chamber, 1075 and North Dome, Vaulting
The Friday Mosque as it stands now is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the twentieth century. Archaeological excavation has determined an Abbasid hypostyle mosque in place by the 10th century. Buyid construction lined a fa├žade around the courtyard and added two minarets that are the earliest example of the double minaret on record.

Construction under the Seljuqs included the addition of two brick domed chambers, for which the mosque is renowned. The south dome was built to house the mihrab in 1086-87 by Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier of Malik Shah, and was larger than any dome known at its time. The north dome was constructed a year later by Nizam al-Mulk's rival Taj al-Mulk. The function of this domed chamber is uncertain. Although it was situated along the north-south axis, it was located outside the boundaries of the mosque. The dome was certainly built as a direct riposte to the earlier south dome, and successfully so, claiming its place as a masterpiece in Persian architecture for its structural clarity and geometric balance. Iwans were also added in stages under the Seljuqs, giving the mosque its current four-iwan form, a type which subsequently became prevalent in Iran and the rest of the Islamic world.

Responding to functional needs of the space, political ambition, religious developments, and changes in taste, further additions and modifications took place incorporating elements from the Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timurids and Safavids. Of note is the elaborately carved stucco mihrab commissioned in 1310 by Mongol ruler Oljaytu, located in a side prayer hall built within the western arcade. Safavid intervention was largely decorative, with the addition of muqarnas, glazed tilework, and minarets flanking the south iwan.

The cupolas and piers that form the hypostyle area between the iwans are undated and varied in style, endlessly modified with repairs, reconstructions and additions.


Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan M. Bloom. 1994. The Art and Architecture of Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Galdieri, Eugenio. 1972. Isfahan: Masgid-i Gum'a. Rome: IsMeo.

Grabar, Oleg. 1990. The Great Mosque of Isfahan. New York: New York University Press.

Michell, George. 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World. London: Thames and Hudson.


Special thanks to the Islamic architecture website