Sahn e Atiq (Old Court)
According to research fendings, the Old Court, in the Safarid period, was in the shape of a rectangle. There were three ivans on it's northern and southern sides, while the eastern and western sides consisted of simple walls. Today, however, the old Court is rectangular. The change dates back to the reign of Fath 'Ali Shah Qajar. Sixteen tombs belonging to Kings and dignitaries sur- round this Court, while the Library and the Guest House (Mehmansadi) of the Shrine are located on two northern sides of the rectangle. The Old Court is connected to the' Atabaki or New Court by means of a passageway; a second passageway links it to the Great Mosque; and the northern ivan serves as still another passageway to the famous shool, Madraseh-ye Fayziyyeh.
The Golden Ivan (Ivan-e tala'i) belongs to this court and has on both sides two other ivans of the Safavid period, remarkable for their fine tile-work. The tiles are of a blue background, and exhibit the artistry of the Safavid tile-workers at their very best.
The northern and southern ivans of the Old Court were built by orders of Shah Baigum (925 A.H.), while the eastern and western ivans belong to 1245., in the reign of Fath 'Ali Shah Qajar. All around the Old Court are built hojrehs (cells); those on the eastern and western sides have
beautiful porticoes, Covered with exquisite plaster finish. The parts between the porticoes have been worked in stone ezareh (the "Skirting" part of a wall made of different material) and tile- work with gereh designs.
On an upper skirting, there is an inscription, belonging to the year 1334, in white sols script on azure background. The inscription consists of fourteen lines of verse which carry relevant data on the edifice.
The most important ivan of the Old Court is the Golden Ivan, which leads to the Harem (tomb chamber) and which is a splendid work of gilding and tile-work. The Golden Ivan was built in 925 by the order of Shah Baigum, the daughter of Shah Isma'il. In most likelihood it was built at the same time as the dome and the twin minarets. The minarets, however, had undergone damage and were therefore rebuilt in 1198 by Lotf 'Ali Khan, the son of Jafar Khan.
Thus it can be stated that the minarets which flank the gold plated Ivan belong originally to the time of Shah Baigum, even though they were rebuilt at a later date and their tops were gilded. I The Golden Ivan is 9 meters deep, six meters wide, and 14.80 meters high. The ezareh is made of glazed tiles and is 1.80 meters high. A girdling inscription (Katibe-ye Kamar bandi), worked in fine mosaic tiles, is topped by another inscription in the sols script, containing the name Shah Isma'il. Above the inscriptions the ceiling is decorated with gilded bricks and the name of the Shah's mother is inscribed in the nastaliq script. In recent years the two flanks of the ivan have been made sections for the removal of shoes.
Although those areas are constructed with some taste their tilework is not on a par with the distinctive tileworks of the rest of the ivan. One wishes that some different areas would be assigned for the purpose of removing shoes.
It should be added that in the Golden Ivan - which is the finest, most unique and the oldest ivan of the Holy Precincts in Qum - there are a number of inscriptions which are exceedingly valuable as works of art and as rare examples of superb calligraphy. Therefore a summary discription of them is in order.
1. The first giroling inscription on mosaic tiles is fourteen meters in length and half a meter wide, and belongs to the Fath 'Ali Shiih period. It is inscribed in white sols script on an azure back- ground and is the work of the famous Qajar period calligrapher Seyyed Razavi. The inscription contains authentic sayings (hadith) of the Prophet.
2. The second mosaic inscription is of the Shah Isma'il period. It is sixty centimeters wide and of similar date as the building of the Ivan.
3.The third inscription is vertical,of Qajar period,dated1225. It is probably the work of the calligrapher Nllf-e Isfahani. Floral patterns and verses from the Koran are other features of this inscription.
4. The fourth inscription is on the gilded section. It starts with the words Ya Hannan (0 merciful One), is followed by the name of the Shah's father and ends with Ya Mannan (0 Beneficient One). The gilding done on the Golden Ivan indicates exquisite craftmanship. It is the work of the master goldsmith Mehdi Zargar. In a section of this ivan there is a small ivan which provides an entrance into the Tomb Chamber (Haram) and is called Dar al-Hoffiiz. It is three meters deep, four meters long, and one and half meters wide.
In the middle of this small ivan there is an inscription on precious faience tiles, which is divided into two halves by the door of the Tomb Chamber. A prophetic hadith, praising the virtues of Hazrat Ma'suma, is contained in the inscription.
The door which links Dar al-HoJraz to the holy Haram is gold-plated. All four sides of the gold- plated door are covered by white marble slabs, on which Malek-osho'ara has inscribed a Fath 'Ali Shah qasida in gilded script.
Among other details of the Old Court we should mention its measurements: length 35.70 meters; width, 34.80 meters. The walls of the Old Court are covered from the ground to a height of one half meter with stone, the rest with tiled bricks.
On the opposite side of the Golden Ivan there is another ivan measuring 8.75 meters in length and 2.50 meters in width and 13 meters in height. The lower shirting (eziireh) of this ivan is worked in tiled bricks.
Above the portal of the ivan there is a marble slab on which the details of the bequest (uagf- niimeh) are carved in the nastalig script. The ivan has a clock on the eastern side and is linked to Madrasa-ye Fayziyya.
The Old Court is connected to the New Court or Sahne Atiibaki by a passageway extending from the eastern side of the Old Court. The passageway has three portals. It also provides the entrance to the Library.
The Old Court houses the mausoleums of Mohammad 'Ali Shiih, Mohammad Shiih, Fath 'Ali Shiih, Mostofi-al Mamiilek and other historical dignitaries. These mausoleums have remarkable architectural features and are particularly noteworthy for their mirror-work and stucco-plaster- ing. In this respect the mausoleum of Fath 'Ali Shiih is of special importance.
Sahn-e Atabiki or the New Court
Sahn-e Alabiiki or the New Court is one of the finest structures in the Holy Shrine. It was built as a rectangle, but today it has lost some of its original shape due to a recessing on the eastern side which has caused protrusions on the two angles. The eastern and western sides measure 76.6 meters each, and the northern and southern sides are 46.8 meters long. The four peripheral sides are 3.2 meters each.
The New Court has four ivans and is one of the architectural masterpieces of Iran. The four ivans provide entrances to the court and are located on the east, west, north and south. Around the court there are thirtyone cells and small ivans; the latter measure three meters by two meters each.
The arches of the eight small ivans are supported by a pair of pillars and a pair of half-pillars made of black stone.
The l.'=tireh or skirting of the New Court is uniformally constructed in stone. The floor of the court is also paved with stone, in the middle of which stands a large pool which, having been damaged in the course of long use, was rebuilt in the Imperial year 2535 (1976-1977).
The entire facade of this beautiful and spacious court is decorated with tiles. On its upper ezareh is seen an inscription on faience tiles, measuring 258.8 meters in length. The half-lines (mesra') of the verse are inscribed alternately in white and yellow. The calligraphy, in the mastalig script, is the work of Mirza Aga Tabrizi; the poetry is by Mirza Fath-Allak Kashani (nom de plume, Shay- btllli). One verse carries the final rhymes ending in n, the other in r.
The New Court was built by order of Mirza 'Ali Asghar Atabak Amin-os-Soltan. The credit of its architectural work goes to the Master Hassan Memar Qumi, while the tilework and masonry were carried out by the Master Mahommad Baqer Qumi, Haj Gholam 'Ali and the Master Mo- hammad Shirazi.
The Mirror Ivan (Ivan-e A'ineh).
The New Court has a number of magnificent ivans. The Mirror Ivan, consisting of the grand hall (Tatar-e sarasari) and a pair of two-storied smaller halls as well as the tall, beautifully decorated minarets, constitute a truly magnificent architectural ensemble and another credit to the artistry of the Master Hassan Memar Qumi.
The Mirror Ivan is 9 meters deep, 14.80 meters high and 7.87 meters wide. The ezareh, 1.20 meters high, is worked in marble. The ezareh of the facade, with fine carvings on it, is an example of the unique art of stonecutting.
The Mirror Hall is also noteworthy for its mirror-work. It is linked to the front hall and is supported by four stone pillars with spiral decorations. The four columns measure ten meters each and as examples of the fine art of stonecutting deserve attention.
On the two sides of the Hall and the Mirror Ivan stand two small ivans, flanked by two short solid minarets, which make a striking contrast with the two tall minarets. The shoe-removal sections for men and women are located at the lower levels of the two small ivans; thus in order to get to the Hall, the visitors have to climb four steps. The facade of the ivan is decorated with hewed stone. The upper ezareh consist of arches, worked in stone, carrying fine reliefs.
The lower covering of the grand hall and four smaller halls is worked in wooden inlaid frames decorated with colorful designs and mirror-work. The mirrors installed in the ivan have in recent years been repaired, rebuilt or polished.
East Ivan (In the New Court or Sahn-e Atabaki)
Facing the Mirror Ivan - which a golden door connects to the Tomb Chamber (Haram) - another ivan is installed, which is a masterpiece of tile-work and a fine example of the decorative art of pendant moqamas. It is located in the receding section of the Court and is a tribute to the superb artistry of the Master Mohammad Baqer Qumi. It seems that he built this ivan with the idea of emulating the work of the Master Hassan Me'mar, the creator of the Mirror Ivan. The East Ivan is 7.80 meters deep, 7.50 meters wide and 13.60 meters high. It is decorated with tiles of gerehi and faience variety, as well as beautiful pendants. It has also two inscriptions, one a band inscription, the other a shorter one on the frontpiece of the ivan. Its ezareh is worked in black stone, while the entire fal;ade of the buildings is decorated with the finest tiles of the Qajar period.
What particularly attracts the attention in the East Ivan, is the pendant (aviz-dar) muqarnas- work of the ceiling in which artistic niceties of great variety are applied. It is structured in several group of eight rows each and in each design a moqamas of floral medallion (moqarnas-e gol-e toranji) is worked in faience tiles, upon which the attributes of the Supreme are inscribed.
The ivan includes a soffeh in the shape of a mihrab, which is distinguished for its tilework. Upon the two side buttresses of the ivan stand two nine-meter minarets. The resulting combination creates a special effect. On the front, just beneath the edge of the roof, an inscription of faience tile, eight meters by sixty centimeters, carries verses from the Koran. The calligraphy, in the sols script, is the work of Rajab 'Ali Mashhadi.
The ivan is topped by a tower, located in the middle of the two minarets. It contains a clock.
The East Ivan provides an entrance to the New Court. The section opening on Hazrati Street is also decorated with tilework and other embellishments. The exterior ivan is five meters deep, two meters wide and twelve meters high. An inscription goes across it and has, on azure tile blocks, verses by Mirza Siideq Parvaneh. The calligraphy is the work of Mirza Aqii Khosh-nevis.
On the exterior front of the East Ivan, below the stone roof-edge, there is another inscription carrying verses by the poet Seyyed Ghamkhar, in which the date of the construction is worked in. The ivan leads onto a vestibule (hashti) through the back entrance, then it is linked to the New
Court by means of two passageways.
The North Ivan
ThenorthIvanprovidesstillanotherentrancetotheNewCourt.Itis7metersdeep,4.40meters wide and 12 meters high. Girdling it is an inscription of faience tiles, carrying calligraphy by Rajab 'Ali Mashhadi, in the sols and Kufic scripts of motadakhel intertwined style. Topped by two minarets and carrying artistic niceties of great variety the North Ivan has a spectacular view from the court as well as from the outside.
The north fac;ade, seen from Hazrati Street, is in appearance similar to the east fac;ade, with two differences. First, the north fac;ade lacks the two side soffehs. Second, across the middle of the ivan there is an inscription of Kheshti tile, carrying lines of verse by the calligrapher Aga Mirza Khoshnevis tabrizi. On the frontispiece of the ivan there is another inscription of lines of poetry, decorating the middle of the two minarets.
The South Ivan
The South Ivan opens on Muzeh Street, and is in appearance like the North Ivan, with the difference that the former is without an inscription and without side soffehs. The South Ivan has an exceedingly pleasing view from the New Court. It also has a vestibule whose walls and ceiling are worked in tile. Across its middle there is an inscription of faience tile, in the sols and Kufic scripts of intertwined style. Across the front of the South Ivan there is another inscription of azure Kheshti tiles, carrying verses in praise of Naseraddin Shah. The calligraphy, in the nastaliq script, is the work of Mirza Aqa Tabrizi.
In addition to the above-mentioned ivans, there are a couple of smaller ivans in the New Court, which, thanks to a number of inscriptions, are worth attention. At the two receding corners of the New Court, two minarets are situated. They are perfectly symmetrical and are decorated with beautiful tile-work.
The Holy Haram (The Tomb Chamber)
The Tomb chamber of Hazrat Ma'surna has an old history. From the beginning the Haram was built on a strong foundation so that it could support the weighty dome. Undoubtedly the Haram of Hazrat Ma'suma is the work of Mir Abu-I Fazl 'Araqi, who had the first dome built on it, then the second dome was erected on the same foundation. The Tomb Chamber was originally decorated with glazed tiles; from the old decorations nothing has survived except a girdling inscription on the ezareh and its margin. The reason for the paucity of old works is that, in keeping with the taste of the rulers of the period, the tiles were removed to make room for mirrorworks. This was, certainly, ill advised from the artistic point of view as tilework is an original Persian art of high order. The latter is by far superior to the rather shoddy mirrorwork for the decoration of holy edifices.
The base of the dome of the Tomb Chamber is polygonal of irregular sides. The Holy Grille (zarih) is situated in the middle. With respect to interior decoration, the tomb chamber is an interesting building of artistic distinction. Entering the Mirror Ivan by way of the New Court the pilgrims pass through a gold-plated door, walk across a rectangular chamber and reach the Holy Haram, where they carry out the ritual of pilgrimage. Those who came by way of the Old Court and the Golden Ivan, enter the Tomb Chamber after crossing Oih al-Hoffiiz.
Oar al-Holfaz chamber is linked to the tomb chamber by means of a gold-plated door. The door is 3.20 by 3.08 meters. Its lower section is worked in silver, then gold-plated into various designs. An inscription consisting of a verse by Oanesh is also noticed.
Gunbad-e Mutahhar (The Dome of the Holy Tomb)
On broad daylight when the sun shines upon the city of Qum, the eyes of the devotees behold the shimmering glitter of a magnificent golden dome. At the darkness of the night, the searchlights and other lighting give to the dome a special sheen that brightens and warms the hearts of the faith- ful and uplifts the spirit of the pilgrims. As we mentioned in earlier sections, the initiator of the construction of the dome over the tomb of Hazrat Ma'suma was Mir Abu-I-Fazl 'Araqi the vazir of Toghrol. He started the building of the dome in 447 A.H. and finished it in 457. The dome survived until the reign of Shah Isma'il. Judging from the sketches drawn by the tourists of the period, 'Araqi's dome was in the shape of
a helmet, with a long neck. It was worked in mu'aqqal tiles, a mixture of bricks and glazed tiles. In the year 925, thanks to Shah Baygum, the pious daughter of Shah Isma'il, the present dome was constructed.
The Dome of the Holy Tomb is parabolic. Its base is hectagonal. Each side, 3.80 meters in length, is distanced from the other by 3.70 meters. The dome is 16 meters high above the roof level. Its cir- cumference is 28.66 meters in the interior, 35.60 meters in the exterior. Starting from the level of the roof, the dome is covered with bricks (90 centimeters), followed by one meter of azure tiles. The latter is in turn followed by four meters of gold ingots. This ends the stem (Siiqeh) of the dome, following which the decoration is worked in muqarnas; after that, up to the top of the dome, a simple covering is seen. On the stem of the dome is situated an inscription, 60 centimeters wide, consisting of lines by Fath 'Ali Khan Saba. The masonry of the dome is the work of the Master Mohammad Me'mar Me'miir Qumi. Originally covered with glazed tiles, the dome was furnished with gold during the reign of Fath 'Ali Shiih. It is said that 12.000 ignots of gold were used for this purpose. Commemorating the gilding of the dome, the poet Mohammad Siideg Parviineh Kiishi (nom de plume, Niiteq), has written a qasida which is quite ingenious from the viewpoint of the numerical arrangement of words, so that every half-line works out to be 1218,the year of the gilding. A portion of this qasida is inscribed under the eziireh of the Old Court.
The inscription below the golden moqarnas of the dome carries lines of verse, wnose nastaliq script is the work of the calligrapher 'Aqa Mohammad Mehdy Malek-al-Ketiib. Separating the lines there are medallions, on which attributes of the Supreme are inscribed in the sols script of Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini. I The inscriptions are usually in the sols and naskh script as these two styles lend themselves easily to decorative improvisation. The use of the Kufic script has also been prevalent in the decoration of religious monuments, and such celebrated calligraphers as 'Ali Reza 'Abbasi, Mohammad Reza Imani and others have excelled in creating noteworthy inscriptions in mosques and holy shrines.
The nastaliq script is likewise used in the inscription seen in different section of sacred sites. It is a combination of the naskh and ta'liq scripts.
Invented by Iranians, the nastaliq is a manifestation of artistic taste at its most refined. Calligraphy experts consider it the finest among the scripts. The nastaliq script was introduced six hundred years age. The first manuscript in nastaliq is the Bustan of Sa'di, which the celebrated calligrapher
Mir 'Ali Tabrizi scribed for Amir Timur, circa 779 A.H.
The Building Surrounding the Sanctuary
Eastern Chamber. On the Eastern side of the Haram, and linked to the Mirror Ivan, is situated a chamber (ravaq), founded by Mirza 'Ali Asghar Atabak in 1300 A.H. The increasing number of the pilgrims called for the expansion of this chamber; therefore changes were gradually introduc- ed in the course of time, Thus the guardhouse (Keshik Khaneh) is added to it, and, on the southern
side, following a winding passageway and a portal, the chamber leads to the roofed Tabataba'i mosque. From another direction it leads to the mausoleum of Shah Safi. The chamber is 23 meters long, 3 meters wide, and 5 meters high. Its mirror-work and mirror muqarnas decorations are of distinctive workmanship.
Another development in the espansion of the chamber has to do with the addition of the guard- house located between the mausoleum of Shah Safi and the Eastern Chamber.
The Western Chamber. The Western Chamber consists of three domes that were built by the orders of the Prince Taqi Mirza Husam as-Saltana, the son of Fath 'Ali Shah, to replace the guest- house built during the reign of Shah Tahmasb. Situated on the west of the Haram, the three domes
create a spacious and well-lit spectacle. The Mausoleum of Shah Salt Originally it was an ivan flanked by two brick minarets. When
Shah Safi died in Damghan (1052 AH.), Shah 'Abbas ordered that his remains be carried to Qum and buried at the ivan. Over the tomb a dome was built, and a latticed window containing an orb (gu) and three portals was installed to separate the tomb from the Haram. Later, however, the latticed window was removed, and in the court of the mausoleum the tabataba'i Mosque was built. On Shah Safi's grave lay a precious box, which is now kept at the museum of the Holy Shrine.
The Shiih Safi dome was built during the reign of Shiih Abbas II, under the supervision of Sulayman Khan. Its base is an irregular hectagon. The ezareh, 1.85 meters high, is covered with marble, on top of which is an inscription worked in faience tiles. It consists of some of the Prophet's sayings (hadjth); the calligraphy is by Mohammad Rezii Imami.
The Mausoleum of Shah 'Abbas II
Undoubtably the Mausoleum of Shah 'Abbas II is an artistic and architectural monument of great merit. Situated on the south-western section of the Haram, it provides the pilgrims with a breathtaking example oy the work the Safavid artists. The view makes some of the pilgrims stop for hours and enjoy the splendid workmanship of the monument.
The Dome of Shah 'Abbiis II is a historical monument dating back to the reign of Shah Sulayman. Its base is a regular polygon of sixteen sides and includes sixteen Soffehs. The dome proper is covered with carved marble. The carved portions are moulded in gold and lapis lazuli. Each soffeh consists of six slabs of stone and measures three metres by sixty centimeters. At the corner of each support stands a beautiful column, two meters of which, extending as far as the arch, are of well-hewn stones. The bottom of the columns are pot-shaped, tapered, and spiral.
The dome has four doors. The first leads to Tabatabii'i dome; the second to the mausoleum of Shiih Safi and ladies' hazam; the third to the holy Haram; the fourth to the Western Chamber. A girdling inscription tops the covering of the Soffehs. Its calligraphy is by the celebrated
Mohammad Rezii Imiimi of the Safavid period. On top of the row of sixteem tiiq-chehs (arcade, there is an inscription in the sols script and gold relief, consisting of the Resurrection sura from the Koran.
The tomb of Shah' Abbas is situated in the middle of the dome. It is without a tablet. However, lines of poetry have been carved on the stones around the tomb.
The New Bili-sar Mosque
The Bci/d-sar or "overhead" Mosque constitutes the biggest building at the Holy Shrine of Hazrat Ma'suma. During the Safavid period it was 35 meters by 6 meters. As time passed gradual changes were introduced. In 1338 plans were made to expand the mosque, and the lot next to its
western side was purchased. Today, the mosque is a roofed building of great beauty and spacious- ness. It measures 48 meters by 14 meters, and is without any columns.
The mausoleums of Shah Sulayman and Shah Sultan Hussain are located on the southern section of the mosque, which also houses the remains of Shah Tahmilsb.
The domes of Shah Sulayman and Shah Sultiln Hussain are responsible for the irregularity of the shape of the Billil-Sar Mosque and have been kept for their importance as historical mo- numents.
The Billil-sar Mosque has a variety of decorations, including five inscriptions. The latter consist of quotations from the Holy Koran, except for the fourth inscription which carries these words inscribed on faience tiles in the nastaliq script: "In the twenty-seventh year of the reign of His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi Shahanshah Aryamehr the construction of this Mosque was terminated."
The Tabilabi'i Dome. It is a recent addition to the buildings of the Holy Precincts in Qum and noteworthy for its splendid workmanship, particularly its exquisite tilework as wel1as its interior decorations. The Tabiitabii'i dome is located on the southern section of the Holy Haram. Today it serves as a roofed mosque. Some call it the southern rauvtiq. The credit of the founding of this great dome goes to the late Hiij Aqii Mohammad Tabiitabii'i.
The base of the Tabiitabii'i Dome is rectangular. However, since four half-arches are installed on its four corners, it looks octagonal.
A four - panelled gold - plated door connects this dome to the Dome of Shiih Safi. At present they have converted the museum rooms into a prayer hall for women. A new building is planned to be constructed for the keeping of the precious objects.
The ceiling of the Tabiitabii'i Mausoleum is noteworthy for its grand structure, tilework and skylights. It is 'araq-chini (skull-cap) in shape, while the dome looks like china-goblet with floral designs, placed upside down.
Below the windows that permit daylight, there are two extended inscriptions, and above it is a simgle extended inscription in the sols script, consisting of quotations from the Koran. They provide interesting examples of using calligraphy for decorative purposes.
The mihriib of the Dome is another artistic feature of interest, particulary insofar as its faience tile-work is concerned.
The Mausoleums of Kings and Dignitaries
The Mausoleum of Fath 'Ali Shih. It is located on the northern side of the Old Court and is the work of Shiih Baigum. During his lifetime, Fath 'Ali Shiih had it repaired and decorated as his future resting place. The base of the Mausoleum is an irregular octagon. In the year 1280, Niiser ad-Din Shah changed its mirror-work to plaster decorations. Its "skirting" is of marble.
TheMausoleumofMohammedShBh.ItislocatedonthewesternsideoftheOldCourt,next to the door leading to the Bahl-sar Mosque. The interior decorations of this Mausoleum is quite varied and consists mainly of plaster-work and mirror-work. The marble tablet is a valuable work of stonecutting.
The Mausoleum of Mahd-e 'Olya. This Mausoleum is situated on the western side, behind the Mausoleum of Mohammad Shah. It is rectangular and decorated with beautiful plaster-work
in relief. The Mostowfi Mausoleum. Situated on the northern side of the Old Court, the Mostowfi
Mausoleum was originally constructed by Shah Baigum, later repaired and decorated by orders of Fath 'Ali Shah Qajar. Its fine plaster-work is the work of Mirza Yusef Khan Mostowfi, the son of Mostowfi, Sr.
The Mausoleum of Manucbehr Khan Mo'tamad ad-Dowleh. It is located on the western side of the Old Court. Its architectural style is very similar to that of Mohammad Shah's Mausoleum. Some fine examples of plaster-work and stonecutting can be seen at this monument.
Other Mausoleums include the resting place of Nezam ad-Dowleh on the eastern wing of the Golden Ivan the southern side of the Old Court; the Mausoleum of Qahraman Mirza, the son of 'Abbas Mirza Nayeb as-Saltaneh, on the western porch at Fayziyyeh School; and finally the Mausoleum of Atabak on the southern corner of the Old Court, among four thick columns, with a bust of Atabak standing on the tomb-stone.