Naqsh-e Jahan Square
(Nᴂghsh-e Jᴂhãn; نقش جهان)
What happened that in 1598, Shah Abbas I decided to change the capital of the Persian Empire from Qazvin to the more central city Isfahan, is a long and interesting story in itself. But had it not been for this shift UNESCO would now have been one amazing item short of its world heritage sites. In the making of the new city, Naghsh-e Jahan Square (meaning “Pattern of the world” had undoubtedly the most important role as it became the new religious, political and economic centre of not only the city of Isfahan, but the entire country.
The best artists and craftsmen of the country were invited to Isfahan and the project of the refurbishment of the city began. The royal palace of Ali Qapu, with its magnificent internal and external architecture provided a spectacular panoramic view of the square for the king, the royal family and their VIP guests. They could watch polo games and occasional celebrations from the balcony of the palace.
Moving clockwise form the palace, on the northern side of the square, is Qeysarieh portal which is the entrance to one of world’s biggest roofed markets. The bazaar of Isfahan is a wonderland of tastes and colours, a comprehensive living history of Persian architecture and a busy maze of pathways, shops, religious schools, restaurants, etc.
Next on the square, on the eastern side right across Ali Qapu, is Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the private mosque used mainly by the royal family with the religious school underneath in the basement. With its unique dome, Sheikh Lotfollah is another masterpiece on the “pattern of the world”.
On the southern side of the square is the grand Jame Abbasi Mosque, known also as Shah Mosque or Imam Mosque. This was the main congregational mosque of the safavid Isfahan where all important religious gatherings were held including the Friday prayers. Massive in size, intricate in decoration and unique in its plan, Jame Abbasi Mosque was another symbolic element representing one of the three pillars of the Safavid government: the religious, the administrative and the economic.
In short, Naghsh-e Jahan Square can be seen as the microcosm of the Safavid Persian Empire integrating business, religion and government in such a subtle and smooth manner that the interwoven network of connections between them never interfered with their functional independency.