Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi, Ardabil, Azerbaijan Eastern, Iran.

Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi, Ardabil, Iran.
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Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi

Sheik Safis 14th century tomb in Ali Qwapu Square, often enlarged and restored in later centuries, can still be visited. It houses the mortal remains of Shah Ismail as well as his saintly ancestor, who is reputed to have foretold the future, spoken to the dead and rescued those in danger at sea. The tombs are surrounded by finely engraved wood panels with extraordinarily delicate ivory and precious metal inlays.

The complex of structures known, at present, as Sheikh Safis Mausoleum, consists of a portal, a porch, Sheikh Safis tomb-chamber, the Chini Khaneh (china hall), the Shahidgah (martyrdom site), the Khaneghah (dervish monastery), Qandil Khaneh (lantern hall), the Jannat Sara Mosque, and others, and ranks among the finest historical achievement of Iranian art.

The burial place of Sheikh Safi od-Din Ardabili as well as other Safavid kings, such as Shah Ismail, comprises the tombs of a number of princes, notables and generals of the Safavid period, including the tomb attributed to Shah Ismails mother, and those of Sheikh Sadr of-Din, Sheikh Junaid, Sultan Heidar and two generals, namely Sultan Ustajilu and Kurd Beig, the latters tombstone bearing the 1542 AD date.

Apart from the above structures, the construction of the main portal of the mausoleum and three domes decorated with exquisite faience tile and inscriptions in the Kuffic and Riqa scripts, give considerable charm and splendor to this attractive historical monument. The decorative elements of the complex, both internal and external, consist of paintings, plaster moldings, stuccos and gold-toned stalactite decorations.

The structure of the Qandil Khaneh stands out among the rest both from the architectural as well as the plaster points of view. Sheikh Safis tomb-chamber is a cylindrical tower capped with a rather low dome, underneath which an exquisite carved box bearing an inscription in Riqa script covers the actual burial ground. The box is one of the finest movable treasure pieces of the mausoleum.

The dome of Sheikh Ismails tomb-chamber is lower than that of Sheikh Safi, and is decorated on the outside with colorful tiles and an inscription in Kuffic. Under the dome in the chamber a fine, costly box rests upon the tomb.

The box on Sheikh Junaids tomb, together with three other boxes in the complex, are highly attractive on account of their superb carvings.

There is a large vaulted hall next to the mausoleum wherein Shah Abbas the Great stored the collection of jade and porcelain given to him by the Emperor of China. Each object was placed in a gold-plated niche cut to size. The gold has worn off and most of the objects (except about a dozen dishes and receptacles) are now in Tehran museums.

The oldest part of the complex belongs to the 15th century AD, the other parts having been gradually added, particularly under Shah Tahmasp I and Shah Abbas II, who spared no efforts to expand, beautify and repair the Safavid Kings eternal resting place.

The most famous of Persian carpets, the so-called “Ardabil Carpet” (one of a pair) in the Victorian and Albert Museum, was presented to the mausoleum by Shah Tahmasp in 1539. It was actually made in Kashan.

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