Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh: Iran’s magnificent “Taj Mahal” 

January 19, 2019

TEHRAN - Locally known as Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh, the UNESCO-registered Mausoleum of Oljaytu is a prime tourism destination while traversing Iran.

Dominating the skyline, the 14th-century monument is highly recognized as an architectural masterpiece particularly due to its innovative double-shelled dome and elaborate interior decoration.

According to UNESCO, the mausoleum’s interior decoration is so outstanding that scholars like A.U. Pope have described the building as “anticipating the Taj Mahal”.

The dome is embellished with turquoise-blue faience tiles, the stunning structure dominates the skyline of Soltaniyeh, an ancient city of the same name in Zanjan province, north-western Iran. It rises dramatically 48m above from its base that neighbors dusty archaeological digs and crumbling walls.

The city of Soltaniyeh was briefly the capital of Persia’s Ilkhanid dynasty (a branch of the Mongol dynasty) during the 14th century.

UNESCO says that the Mausoleum of Oljaytu is an essential link and key monument in the development of Islamic architecture in central and western Asia.

The fairly large dome is the earliest extant example of its type in the country, and became an important reference for the later development of the Islamic dome.

Also, the extremely rich interior of the mausoleum, which includes elaborate brickwork, glazed tiles, marquetry or designs in inlaid materials, stucco, and frescoes, can be conceived as a masterpiece in the arena of Islamic architecture.  

The UN cultural body adds the Mausoleum of Oljaytu is an essential link and key monument in the development of Islamic architecture in central and western Asia. Here, the Ilkhanids further developed ideas that had been advanced during the classical Seljuk phase (11th to early 13th centuries), during which the arts of Iran gained distinction in the Islamic world, thereby setting the stage for the Timurid period (late 14th to 15th centuries), one of the most brilliant periods in Islamic art.

Excavations carried out in the 790-ha Mausoleum of Oljaytu property have revealed additional vestiges of the old city, and a large part of this property has retained its archaeological character. As the ancient capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty, Soltaniyeh represents an exceptional testimony to the history of the 13th and 14th centuries in Iran.

AFM/MQ/MG

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