Isfahan Chahar Bagh Theological School

Chahar Bagh Theological School which was previously called Madrasab Madare-e Shah, is the last (not the least) and the most beautiful masterpieces of Safavid period and was built at the time of the last Safavid king, Shah Soltan Hosain, between 1704 and 1714. It is famed for its tile-work, which represents Safavid art at its best. The tiled double dome is also an architectural masterpiece. The exterior walls are covered with extremely fine tile-work in a wide range of designs and patterns. The delightful garden shaded by tall plane-trees about with pools along with the marble basin in the middle fed by a long canal that runs through the whole courtyard, add a note of freshness, producing fascinating effects of light and shade. The building has two principal gateways, one leading from the Chahar Bagh Avenue and the other from the Qaisariyeh Bazaar. The former, constructed of silver and gold, is a masterpiece of metal-work and engraving, while the one leading to the bazaar is of original Safavid inlaid work.

Although it is a theological collage not a mosque, it contains a notable prayer hall with a fine altar (mihrab) facing towards Mecca. One hundred and fifty chambers on two stores are set round the courtyard. It is said that the work was financed by the Shah’s mother-whence its name.

From the outside, the building looks magnificent; in its style and decoration, the high cupola is similar to those on all Safavid mosques, only the shades are brighter and more varied; the strip of blue faience bearing the dedicatory inscription in white letters is wider, and there are two small yellow frieze. The decorative motifs, especially the large stylized flowers with delicate curves, are truly remarkable.

The minarets flanking the south portal on the inside are admittedly rather short but they are undoubtedly the most ornate minarets in Isfahan.

The private chamber of Shah Sultan Hossain –the first on the right on the west side of the courtyard-is embellished with rich gilt decoration. In accordance white custom, the richest portal is than of the south iwan. The mosaics of jade and turquoise on a golden ground that surmount the ogival arch are extremely beautiful. A wide ultramarine string-course with delicate white lettering runs all-round the portal. The use of yellow and gold shades is particularly characteristic of the last style of Safavid decorative art.

The theme of flowers is constantly repeated in all the niches and alveoli of the vault; the ribs are set off by a double line of gilding.

Regarding architectural harmony and tile-work designs, the dome of Chahar Bagh Theological School is the most beautiful one other than Sheikh Lotfollah’s. The sumptuous alter (minrab), the single marble pulpit (minber), the private chamber of Shah Sultan Hossain and the wooden windows are also of picturesque views of the theological school.