Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble listed in UNESCO Heritage List
Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble is one of the most important historical monuments in Ardabil. This tomb is one of the unique historical buildings in Iran, which in terms of architecture and tiling is one of the masterpieces of the eighth century AH and the following years. Sadr al-Din Musa, son of Sheikh Safi, built this complex after his father’s death in 735 AH and then Shah Abbas added important buildings to this complex and made improvements in it.
The importance of Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble is generally reflected in its relationship with the Safavid dynasty. This complex is one of the 10 most important antiquities of Iran and has been registered as the 11th valuable historical monument of Iran by UNESCO on July 26, 2010.
Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili is a mystic and elder of the Safavid dynasty and the founder of the Sufi sect. He was born in the city of Ardabil, in the year 650 AH, his mother tongue was Azeri, and he has written many poems in Turkish in the books of Safwa al-Safa and the genealogy. Sheikh’s father and grandfather worked in agriculture in Kalkhoran, Ardabil.
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The Architecture of Sheikh Safi al-din Ardabili Complex
The entrance to the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili is located in the eastern part of Aali Qapo Square. The tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din is a cylindrical tower with a short dome on top of which there is an inlaid box under the dome and is one of the exquisite works of this tomb. In the margin of it, an inscription is engraved in Raqa script and has a tomb that has a high value in terms of artistic and architectural masterpieces and display of basic mystical principles in the world, and therefore has retained its sanctity and value to this day.
Artistic and delicate tiling, mosaics and Mogharnas and beautiful inscriptions and calligraphy of the great Safavid period, valuable inlays, silverwork, gilding, painting, and stamping have been used in every part of this valuable and universal historical monument, which all represent the arts of Iranian artists of that period.
The unique carpet of the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili (which is called Ardabil Carpet) has been the decoration of this tomb for many years and is now on the list of 50 selected works of art in the world. It is also on public display in the “Victoria & Albert Museum” in London and is one of the unique works in Iranian history. It is a great example of the art of Iranian carpet weavers.
This complex has buildings from 735 to 1038 AH as a collection of architecture, decorations, tiling, large mosaics, and murals, inlaid and latticed tombs. Silver doors represent the glory of religious architecture from the Ilkhanid to the Safavid period.
Different components and parts of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili collection
Jannat Sara: On the north side of the main courtyard, there is a porch with a large wooden lattice door. To the north of this porch, which is the royal residence, another door opens to a domed and octagonal building called Jannat Sara. Doors have been installed on the north and west walls of Jannat Sara to allow access to the adjoining rooms.
Unfortunately, there is no exact information about the first structure of this building and its developments and usage. The roof of the Qajar period was completely destroyed a few decades ago and in recent years a brick dome has been built on it in a traditional way, which is the largest dome in the complex.
Qandil Khaneh: This part, which is also called the prayer hall, has been the place of recitation and interpretation of the Qur’an. Qandil Khaneh is a rectangular hall with two continuous spaces in its north and south and a semi-domed arch each.
By order of Shah Tahmasb I, a carpet was woven for Qandil Khaneh with 33 million knots, which was spread on the ground and painted the map of the carpet on the roof of Qandil Khaneh. This carpet is now kept in the Victoria & Albert Hall Museum in London as the most exquisite carpet of the Safavid period called “Ardabil Carpet”. The roof on which the map of this carpet was depicted also collapsed in the earthquake of 1264 AH. The current roof was probably built during the Qajar period.
The two southern and northern halves of the hall, which are made of plaster and decorated with paint on them, have somewhat reduced the simplicity of the current plaster roof. The royal residence of the hall, which is located at the southern end of the Qandil Khaneh, is separated from the main part of the hall by two marble stairs and a silver door and railing. To the right of this rail is a sign that is said to have been held by Shah Ismail Safavid during the Battle of Chaldoran.
Porcelain house: It is one of the earliest buildings in the Sheikh Safi complex, which was probably built before the construction of the Jannat Sara and the Qandil Khaneh, and perhaps even at the same time as the Allah Allah dome. This place, which leads to the chandelier of the house in a completely asymmetrical way, was originally the meeting place of the dervishes or the ceremony hall (the house of the assembly). During the reign of Shah Abbas I, by making changes in it, it became a place for keeping exquisite books, valuables, and royal porcelain.
These porcelain dishes were made by the order of Shah Abbas I by Chinese craftsmen and all of them have a royal seal and the phrase “given to the threshold of Sheikh Safi, a servant of Shah Abbas” is engraved on them.
The exterior design of the porcelain house is an irregular octagon, the two sides of which are hidden in the adjacent mansion. The top of the complex is also covered with a dome. In 1350 to 1351 AH, the outer dome was reconstructed and currently, the outside of the dome is covered with a protective sheet of copper to prevent moisture from entering.
Tomb of King Ismail: The tomb, which leads to the royal residence of Qandil Khaneh, is a small room with a brick dome on four pillars. In addition, at the top of the roof, the arches become a concave octagonal star. The upper part of the walls and the ceiling are skillfully painted with flowers and bushes and on them with different colors and gilding. The walls up to a height of 1.69 m from the floor of the tomb are covered with azure blue brick tiles on which gilding is painted.
In the exterior of the tomb, a cylindrical tower eight meters high has been built with a small dome at the top. The dome and its stem are decorated with white, black, yellow and turquoise tiles in the shape of a rhombus. At the top of the dome are five swords, symbolizing the five tribes that helped King Ishmael reach the throne.
Allah Allah Domb: This dome, which is located above the tomb of Sheikh Safi and is the core of the complex, was built by Sadr al-Din Musa. On the body of the tower with turquoise tiles, the word Allah is repeated and for this reason, it is called Allah Allah dome. The decorations of the stem and the dome itself are made of the same turquoise tiles in the brick text and in the form of repeated rhombuses.
The tower has two entrances to the north and south; The north entrance is almost lost with the construction of the Qandil khaneh and the connection to it, but the tile frame around it is still visible from the outside; The southern entrance, known as the Qibla door, was once the main entrance to the tomb, which was abandoned after the construction of the Kandil Khaneh during the reign of Shah Tahmasb.
The walls inside the tomb up to the place where they are connected to the dome are all plastered and on it, canvas curtains with Islamic motifs and flowers and bushes are decorated in the style of Safavid paintings and nailed to the walls.
This collection represents a masterpiece of human genius and creativity that has been a platform for the exchange of human values over a period of time in a cultural region. In terms of advances in architecture or technology, urban planning or landscape design is truly unparalleled and clearly demonstrates the passage of human history.
As mentioned before, this valuable complex was able to attract the attention of experts from all over the world and in 2010 it was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If you are planning to travel to Iran and you also want to visit the magnificent collection of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili, we suggest you join us in to Iran tour to create dreamy moments for you and your companions.