Meidan Imam, Isfahan
Built by Shah Abbas the Great at the beginning of the 17th century, and surrounded by monumental buildings connected by a series of two-story arcades, this site is famous for its Royal mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah mosque, Qeysariyeh and the timurid palace dating back to the 15th century. It is a testimony of the social and cultural life in Persia during the era of the Safavids.
In 1598, Shah Abbas I moved his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, an oasis destined to become his place of residence and an important center of commerce, culture and religion. Fertilized by the Zayandeh rud, in the middle of a vast arid landscape, the city is ideal to distance itself from future assaults by the Ottomans, sworn enemies of the Safavids, and the Uzbeks, and at the same time gain more control over the Persian Gulf, recently become an important trade route for the Dutch and the British East India Company.
This significant urban development project is attributed to Sheikh Bahai, which focuses on two key characteristics of the Shah's general plan: the Chahar Bagh boulevard (four gardens), the historic avenue of Isfahan flanked on both sides by d such as residences of foreign dignitaries, and Naghsh-e Jahan Square.
Before the rise to power of the Shah, Persia had a decentralized power structure in which various institutions fought for power, including the military tribes (Qizilbash) and the governors of the provinces constituting the Empire. Shah Abbas wanted to weaken this political structure and the development of Isfahan to make it the new capital of Persia was an important step for the centralization of power.
The ingenuity of Naghsh-e Jahan Square was for the Shah to unite the three main components of power in his court: the clergy, represented by the Shah mosque, the power of the traders through the Imperial bazaar, and the power of the Shah himself, from his palace Ali Qapu.
The Meidan Emam is an urban public square in the center of Isfahan, a city located at the intersection of the main north-south and east-west roads that cross central Iran. It is one of the largest urban squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Built by Abbas I, Shah of the Safavid dynasty, at the beginning of the 17th century, the square is lined with two-story arcades and framed on each side by four magnificent buildings: to the east, Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque , to the west, the pavilion of Ali Qapu, to the north, the portico of Qeyssariyeh, and to the south, the famous Royal Mosque. The Meidan Emam, a homogeneous urban complex built on a single, coherent and harmonious plan, was the heart of the Safavid capital and is an exceptional urban achievement.
Also known as Naghsh-e Jahan (Image of the World), and previously as Meidan-e Shah, Meidan Emam is not characteristic of urban settlements in Iran where cities are usually built on a very tight and without large open space. On the contrary, the public square of Isfahan is immense: 560 meters long by 160 meters wide, it extends over almost 9 hectares. All the architectural elements that make up the square, including its arcades occupied by shops, are remarkable from an aesthetic point of view and decorated with a profusion of enameled ceramic tiles and paintings.
The Royal Mosque (Masjed-e Shah) has a particular interest, located on the south side of the square and oriented towards Mecca. It remains the most famous example of the colorful architecture that reached its peak during the period of the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722, 1729-1736). The pavilion of Ali Qapu, on the western flank, forms the monumental entrance to the area of palaces and royal gardens which extend behind the pavilion. Its apartments, its high portal and its covered terrace (tentlar) are renowned. The portico of Qeyssariyeh, on the north flank, leads to the bazaar of Isfahan, a building 2 km long. Finally, the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque on the east flank, built to serve as a private mosque at the royal court, is today considered one of the masterpieces of the Safavid architecture.
Meidan Emam was at the heart of the culture, economy, religion, social power, government and political life of the Safavid capital. Its vast sand-covered esplanade was used for celebrations, walks and public performances, there were polo rallies and troops gathered there. The arcades on each side of the square housed hundreds of shops; above the portico that led to the great bazaar of Qeyssariyeh, a balcony welcomed musicians who gave public concerts; the tutor of Ali Qapu communicated from behind with the throne room where the shah sometimes received ambassadors. In summary, the royal place of Isfahan was the most important monument of Persian socio-cultural life in the period of the Safavid dynasty.
Meidan Emam constitutes a homogeneous urban ensemble, built over a short period in a single, coherent and harmonious plan. All the monuments opening on the square are remarkable from an aesthetic point of view. The Royal Mosque is of particular interest. It is connected to the south side of the square by an immense and deep porch with cut-out sides and surmounted by a half-cupola whose walls are covered with mosaics of enamelled earthenware. This gate, framed by two minarets, is extended to the south by an official vestibule (iwan) which leads, at an angle, to the inner courtyard, thus connecting the mosque, which according to tradition is oriented north-east / south (towards Mecca), to the architectural ensemble of the square which is oriented north / south. The Royal Mosque of Isfahan remains the most famous example of colorful architecture that reached its peak in Iran under the Safavid dynasty. The pavilion of Ali Qapu constitutes the monumental entrance of the area of the palace and the royal gardens which extend behind him. Its apartments, completely decorated with paintings and largely open to the outside, are renowned. On the square is the high gate (48 meters) flanked by several floors of rooms and surmounted by a terrace (tentlar) shaded by a very functional roof that rests on 18 fine columns of wood. All the architectural elements of the Meadan Emam, including the arcades, are decorated with a profusion of enamelled ceramic tiles and paintings in which floral ornamentation predominates - trees in bloom, vases, bouquets, etc. - independently of figurative compositions in the style of Riza-i Abbasi who was at the head of the school of painting in Isfahan under the reign of Shah Abbas and was renowned both in Persia and abroad.
The Isfahan Royal Square is an exceptional urban achievement in Iran, where cities are usually built on a very tight plan and with little open space except for the inner courtyards of the caravanserais (inns along the roads). This is an example of a form of urban architecture that is inherently vulnerable.
Meidan Emam was the centre of the Safavid capital. Its vast esplanade of sand was used for walks, gathering troops, polo practice, celebrations and public executions. The arcades surrounding the square on all sides welcomed shops; above the portico that led to the great bazaar of Qeyssariyeh, a balcony welcomed musicians who gave public concerts; the tutor of Ali Qapu communicated from behind with the throne room where the shah sometimes received ambassadors. In summary, the royal place of Isfahan was the most important monument of Persian socio-cultural life during the period of the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722, 1729-1736).
All elements and components necessary for the expression of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are located within its boundaries, including, among others, the urban public square and the two-decked arcades that delimit it, the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfallah, the Ali Qapu Pavilion, the Qeyssariyeh Portico and the Royal Mosque.
The threats to the integrity of the property include economic development, which is accompanied by pressure to authorize the construction of a multi-storey commercial building and a parking lot in the historic center, within boundaries of the buffer zone, lane widening projects that threaten the boundaries of the property, increasing numbers of tourists and fires.
The historical monuments of Meidan Emam, Isfahan, are authentic in terms of forms and design, materials and substance, locations and frame, and spirit. The surface of the urban public square, once covered with sand, is now paved with stones. A basin was installed in the center of the square, lawns were created in the 1990s and two entrances were added to the northeast and west of the square. These upgrades and upcoming renovations, undertaken by cultural heritage experts, nevertheless use national technology and knowledge, in order to preserve the authenticity of the property.
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