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Soltanie Dom

Zanjan, Iran

Soltaniyeh situated in the Province of Zanjan, Iran, some 240 km to the north-west from Tehran, used to be the capital of Ilkhanid rulers of Persia in the 14th century. Its name translates as “the Imperial”. In 2005, UNESCO listed Soltaniyeh as one of the World Heritage Sites.

The principal among Soltaniyeh’s several ruins is the Mausoleum of Il-khan ljeit , traditionally known as the Dome of Soltaniyeh. The structure, erected from 1302 until 1312, boasts the oldest double-shell dome in the world. Its importance in the Muslim world may be compared to that of Brunelleschi’s cupola for the Christian architecture.

The Dome of Soltaniyeh paved the way for more daring Muslim cupola constructions, such as the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi and Taj Mahal. Much of exterior decoration has been lost, but the interior retains superb mosaics, faience, and murals.

The estimated 200 ton dome stands 49 meters (161 ft) tall from its base, and is currently undergoing extensive renovation.

Soltaniyeh On the way to Zanjan, Tabriz, Ardabil and Rasht by road, you will have the opportunity to visit some of Irans historic sites in towns along the highway from Tehran to the north and northwest Iran.

Your probable stay in Zanjan will give you the chance to see the Mausoleum of Oljaitu at Sultanieh, and prepare your imagination to visualize the metropolis that was once Tabriz. Sultanieh the town of Sultans 285 km to the northwest of Tehran in Zanjan province, in an altitude of 1,900 m above sea level, is six km along a road which turns south off the main road which turns south of the main road from Qazvin to Zanjan, 37 km southeast of Zanjan.

The y-junction (the Serah-e Sultanieh) can be reached by bus from Qazvin or Zanjan, and from there you hitch. Like the latter, Sultanieh was built by the Mongols as belated expiation for the wholesale destruction they wrought during the conquest of Iran.

Arghun Khan founded Sultanieh in the last decade of the 13th century, and it was enhanced during the reign of his sons Ghazan and Oljaitu during the early 14th century. By the command of Oljaitu, Ghazans younger brother and successor (1304-16), there arose on the beautiful open meadows of Sultanieh a wonder city planned to be the imperial capital. Begun in 1305 and dedicated in 1313, it was built magnificently and rapidly. The result was a complex almost the size of Tabriz, dominated by Qlijatus Mausoleum, one of Irans supreme architectural achievements. The building was the climax of a congeries of subordinate buildings no longer extant.

Founders is one of the most curious stories in Central Asian religious history. He was baptized Nicholas as an infant and had been converted to Buddhism before he became a Sunni Muslim of the Hanafi sect. But after visiting Najaf in the winter of 1309-10 this most impressionable Mongol was persuaded to Shiite Islam and decided to dedicate the great mausoleum at Sultanieh not to himself (as its popular name indicates) but as the final glorious resting-place of the remains of Ali (the Prophets son-in-law) and Hossein, the first and third Imams revered by Iranian Shiites. Faced with the Najafis refusal to part with the remains of their Imams, Oljaitu found himself in rather an awkward position; but he himself was the only one to be buried there upon his death in 1316. It is difficult to recall a mausoleum equaling the grandeur of this one anywhere else in Iran. Visible from far across the surrounding plain, the mausoleums very striking egg-shaped dome is said to be the largest Islamic version ever built. The mausoleum is 53 meters high and 25 meters in diameter. Octagonal in shape, it is dominated by a superb dome that soars almost as impressively without the eight elegant minarets or superb portals, which no longer survive.

The second-story galleries open outward, anticipating monuments such as Taj Mahal. Its impressive scale provides for an interior of great power. Here space is ample and majestic not mere emptiness but space more intensely realized than an open landscape.

The walls are made less conspicuous by the stately rhythm of eight huge and soaring arches. Mediated by shallow stalactites, the angles between these arches seem to melt quietly into the circular base of the enormous dome.

The walls were originally faced with light gold-toned brick, punctuated with small, dark blue faience tiles strung out to form large inscriptions of rectangular Kuffic, but in 1313 the interior was redecorated with plaster.

Designs were varied; huge lacy medallions or painted mosaic and floral patterns, sacred inscriptions proclaimed the divine message, their undulating scripts kept alive a gentle flowing movement.

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