Restoration of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque continues 

July 2, 2021 - 16:7

TEHRAN – A team of cultural heritage experts and experienced restorers supervises the restoration of parts of the creamy dome of the 17th-century Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, a masterpiece of Iranian architecture in Isfahan, the deputy provincial tourism chief has said.

The restoration project has been in progress since last year as the previous low-quality rehabilitation work produced many criticisms from experts and authorities.

However, in recent weeks, cultural heritage aficionados have sharply criticized officials for carrying out restorations without the assistance of experts.

“Supervisory and advisory committees have been formed jointly by the province’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department and Imam Square in order to continue the restoration of the dome of the mosque,” Nasser Taheri announced on Thursday. 

The supervisory committee is composed of architects and restorers who are tasked with overseeing the restoration project, while scholars and specialists on the advisory committee will be consulted in the areas needed to complete the project in due time, the official explained.  

The restoration project continues with the use of traditional materials and methods as well as rearranging and restoring old tiles removed during the initial phase of the project, he noted.

Last October late provincial tourism chief Fereydoon Allahyari announced that as the dome is not in a good condition and there are some new cracks on it, it is decided to be restored once again using the expertise of top traditional restorers and academic achievements in order to salvage the monument without any damage to its glory.

While pictures were taken on a snowy day in Isfahan in 2019 showed all parts of the dome but one covered in snow, the media and experts blamed the flawed restoration work, which used modern waterproof materials that had damaged the dome’s integrity.

Restoration and preservation experts criticized local authorities for not caring enough for the architectural masterpiece which was built 400 years ago during the Safavid Empire.

Authorities at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts admitted that there should have been a fault with the restoration. Experts said the repair workers could have used hydrated construction materials that contained polymer substances. Others said cracks on the dome that have been caused by previous restoration work could be to blame.

The story, however, turned to larger fear, casting doubt over the fate of the majestic mosque and warnings over the danger of the whole collapse.

A budget of 30 billion rials (over $700,000 at the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials per dollar) will be needed for the new round of the restoration project, Allahyari added.

The official announced in June 2019 that some two-eighths of delicately floral tiles, which for centuries adorned the creamy dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, had been restored and are ready to be reinstalled.

“This phase of the restoration project entails two-eighths of the dome’s surface (the dome has been divided into eight portions), and its associated glazed tiles have been fully restored and are ready to be reinstalled.”

In comparison to many mosques scattered across the country, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque appears to be relatively unusual, having neither a minaret nor a courtyard probably because the mosque was never intended for public use, but rather served as a worship place for women.

Built between 1603 and 1619 during the reign of Shah Abbas I, the mosque was dedicated to the ruler’s father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, a revered Lebanese scholar of Islam who was invited to Isfahan to oversee the king’s mosque (now the Imam Mosque).

The exterior panels boast collections of arabesques and floral designs that have become a signature motif of the masterpiece. The portal itself contains some stalactite-type stone carving used to decorate doorways and window recesses with rich concentrations of blue and yellow motifs.

Inside the sanctuary, there are thousands of mosaics that adorn the walls and its extraordinarily gorgeous ceiling that features a series of shrinking, yellow motifs, itself a masterpiece of design. Photography is allowed but using a flash is not.

The huge Imam Square, best known as Naghsh-e Jahan Sq. (literary meaning “Image of the World”), is one of the largest in the world (500m by 160m), and a majestic example of town planning of the time.

ABU/MG

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