Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran. Of the four monuments that dominated the perimeter of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, this one was the first to be built. The purpose of this mosque was for it to be a private mosque of the royal court, unlike the Masjed-e Shah, which was meant for the public. For this reason, the mosque does not have any minarets and is of a smaller size. Indeed, few Westerners at the time of the Safavids even paid any attention to this mosque, and they certainly did not have access to it. It wasn't until centuries later, when the doors were opened to the public, that ordinary people could admire the effort that Shah Abbas had put into making this a sacred place for the ladies of his harem, and the exquisite tile- work, which is far superior to those covering the Shah Mosque.
Sheikh Lotfollah was one of Shiite prominent, preachers and clergies who came from Jabal Amel in Lebanon to Isfahan. The Shah Abbas supported him and the Sheikh took up residence in Isfahan and the sheikh Lotfollah mosque was named after him. The mosque was used as a Theological school and also as a royal mosque.
This beautifully proportioned and decorated mosque, with some of the best mosaics from that era, took nearly 20 years to complete. The pale tiles of the dome change color, from cream through to pink, depending on the light conditions and the mosque is unusual because it has no minaret or courtyard but interior and exterior ornamentations are unbelievable for visitors. As soon as we enter the mosque, we pass through a dim- lit corridor which is connected to the sanctuary of the mosque. The mentioned corridor was built for two purposes. First when entering the sanctuary our face will be in direction of Mecca (Qibleh). Second light outside the mosque is sharp and strong, but in the main parts (sanctuary) light is dim. Passing through the dim- lit corridor for few seconds, our eyes will be adjusted to dim light and when we enter the main part, we will be able to see the glory and beauty of the mosque as real as possible. The main entrance to the mosque is located on the east side of this small court. The structure itself is not aligned perpendicularly to the Square’s eastern wall, but lies at an angle (almost 45 degrees) against the Square’s wall. As a result, when viewed from the Square, the mosque's main portal iwan and dome do not fall on the same axis, as is always the case in other mosques, but instead the dome appears behind the main portal iwan as if having slid 6.5 meters to the right from its axis. This asymmetrical layout was initially introduced to reconcile the (southwest) direction of Mecca with the placement of the mihrab on the qibla wall, and adds visual complexity to the structure.
The figure painted in the middle of the floor under the dome is a peacock at certain times of the day. The sunlight enhances the peacock's tail. The mosque was once called the Women's Mosque, because there is apparently a tunnel between this mosque and the Ali Qapu palace, allowing women from the old dynasties to attend prayers without being seen in public.
The Sheikh Lotfollah mosque is viewed by historians and visitors as one of the most important architectural projects built on Isfahan's Square, prominent for its location, scale, design, and ornament. It represents the best example of architecture and tile work of Iran in the 17th century. The beauty of its buff dome fills visitors with enchantment. This mosque differs from all others in several respects.