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Famous monuments of Iran

Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Esfahan

The Royal Square of Esfahan is a monument to of Persian socio- cultural life during the Safavid period (until 1722). It is an urban phenomenon, which is an exception in Iran where the cities are ordinarily tightly parceled without spatial fluidity, the exception being the interior courts of the caravanserais. It is an example of the form of naturally vulnerable urban architecture. The Shah of the Iranian dynasty of the Safavids, Abbas, who reigned from 1587 to 1628, chose as his capital Esfahan, which he magnificently embellished and remodeled. The center of the city was accented by a vast Royal Square (Meidan-e Shah), which was so beautiful and so large that it was called 'The Image of the World'. It is bordered on each side by four monumental buildings linked by a series of two- story arcades: to the north, the Qeyssariyeh (1602-19), to the south the Royal Mosque (1612-30), to the east, the Mosque of Sheykh Loffollah (1602-18) and to the west, the pavilion of Ali Qapu, a small Timurid palace (15th century), enlarged and decorated by the shah and his successors. Of particular interest is the Royal Mosque, which is grafted on to the south side of the square by means of deep and immense sectioned porch. It is crowned by a half dome, whose interior walls are dressed with enameled faience mosaics, bound by two minarets, and prolonged to the south by an iwan (three-sided, vaulted hall open at one end), leading to a interior courtyard that describes a right angle. The pavilion of Ali' Qapu forms the monumental entrance to the palace zone and to the royal gardens, which extend behind it. Its apartments, which are completely decorated with paintings and have wide exterior openings, are renowned. On the square is a high portal (48 m), flanked by several stories of rooms and crowned by thin wooden columns. All of these architectural elements of the Meidan-e Shah, including the arcades, are adorned with a profusion of enameled ceramic tiles with paintings, where the floral ornamental is dominant, flowering trees, without a prejudice for the figured compositions in the style of Riza Abbasi, renowned both inside and outside of Persia, who was head of the school of painting at Esfahan during the reign of Shah Abbas. The Royal Mosque remains the most celebrated exmple of the colorful architecture which, in Iran, reached its height under the Safavid dynasty. The Meidan-e Shah was the heart of the Safavid capital. Its vast sandy esplanade was used for promenades, assembling troops, playing polo, celebrations and for public executions. On all sides, the arcades house shops. Above the portal of the large bazaar of Qeyssariyeh is a tribune that accommodated musicians giving public concerts. The talar of Ali- Qapu communicates, from behind, with the throne room where the king occasionally received ambassadors.


The magnificent ruins of Persepolis lie at the foot of Kuh- Rahmat (Mountain of Merch) in the plain of Marv Dasht about 650 km south of the present capital city of Teheran. Founded by Darius I in 518 BC (although more than a century passed before it was finally completed by Artaxerxes), Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemeind Empire. An inscription carved on the southern face of the terrace proves that Darius the Great was the founder of Persepolis. It was built on an created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. Before of the buildings could be erected, considerable work had to be done: this mainly involved cutting into an irregular and rocky mountainside in order to shape and raise the large platform and to fill the gaps and depressions with rubble. The terrace of Persepolis, with is double flight of access stairs, its wals covered by sculpted friezes at various levels, contingent Assyrianesque propylaea, the gigantic winged bulls, and the remains of large halls, is a grandiose architectural creation. The studied lightening of the roofing and the use of wooden lintels allowed the Achaemenid architects to use, in open areas, a minimum number of astonishingly slender columns. They are surmounted by typical capitals where, resting on double bolutes, the forequarters of two kneeling bulls, placed back-to- back, extend their coupled necks and their twin heads, directly under the intersections of the beams of the ceiling. Persepolis was the example par excellence of the dynastic city, the symbol of the Achaemenid dynasty, which is why it was burned by the Greeks of Alexander the Great in 330. According to Plutarch, they carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels. What remains today, dominating the city, is the immense stone terrace (530 m by 330 m), half natural, half artificial, backed against the mountains. It seems that Darius planned this impressive complex of palaces not only as the seat of government but also, and primarily, as a show place and a spectacular center for the receptions and festivals of the Achaemenid kings and their empire. Darius lived long enough to see only a small part of his plans executed. This ensemble of majestic approaches, monumental stairways, throne rooms (Apadana and also known as the Royal Audience Hall), reception rooms and annex buildings is classified among the world's greatest archaeological sites, among those which have no equivalent and which bear witness of a unique quality to a most ancient civilization. During the following centuries many people travelled to and described Persepolis and the ruins of its Achaemenid palaces. The ruins were not excavated until the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago sponsored an archaeological expedition to Persepolis and its environs under the supervision of Ernst Herzfeld from 1931 to 1934, and Erich F. Schmidt from 1934 to 1939. On a terraces, as if on pedestal, the Achaemid kings, Darius (522- 486 BC), his son Xerxes (486 – 65 BC) and his grandson Artaxerxes (486 – 24 BC) built a Splendid palatial complex: propylaea, formal halls and private apartments opening in to courts linked by staggered corridors, based on Mesopotamian forerunners. The Persepolis visible today is mostly the work of Xerxes; the northern part of the terrace, consisting mainly of the Audience Hall of the Apadana, the Throne Hall and the Gate of Xerxes, represented the official section of the Persepolis complex, accessible to a restricted public. The other part held the palaces of Darius and Xerxes, the Harem, the Council Hall and such. As in Mesopotamia, the principal building material was sun- dried brick; yet the ashlar, mainly used for supporting elements (jambs and lintels of doorways, casings, window- breasts, bases and capitals, etc.), for monumental doorways and for vast sculpted surfaces, has happily survived the vicissitudes of time.

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