Palaces & Caravansaries in Isfahan

Palaces & Caravansaries in Isfahan

Some of the Palaces & Caravansaries in Isfahan can be listed as below:

  1. Ali Qapu (The Royal Palace) – early 17th century
  2. ChehelSotoun (The Palace of Forty Columns) – 1647
  3. Hasht-Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) – 1669
  4. Shah Caravan-sarai
  5. Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) – 1650

1.Ali Qapu Palace

 The royal palace of ‘Ali Qapu dominates the south eastern side of the central square in Isfahan, formerly called the Meidan-e-Shah. Its name means “The High Gate” and its impressive entrance way was no doubt intended to symbolize the strength and authority of the Safavid monarchs who ruled the country, and, as the posters on the veranda show, this significance is retained even in present times when the square has been renamed Meidan-e-Imam.

The talar or veranda formed an ideal place from which to watch the games of polo which took place in the square and is richly decorated with designs painted on the external plaster at the rear and elaborate tracery in the ceiling. The columns, like those of ChehelSotoon, were originally encased in mirrored glass to give the impression of a roof floating in the air, and like them are cut from single chenar trees (Platanusorientalis). The lower floors are uninteresting and were clearly used as quarters for guards, and the security of the upper apartments was further enhanced by the uncomfortably steep and narrow stairways which lead up and down within the building.
The interior of the building is compulsively decorated with naturalistic scenes, charmingly painted birds and some figures, many of which have sadly been defaced or damaged over time. These are now being repaired. The famous “Musicians Room” contains elaborate cut-out plaster work depicting all manner and shapes of vases, although it is doubtful whether any could ever actually have been stored there.

 on the western side of the Naqsh e Jahan Square, opposite to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and had been originally designed as a vast portal. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor, Music Hall, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic.

Fresco from the portico of the palace, depicting a Persian woman

The name Ali Qapu, from Arabic “Ālī” (meaning “imperial” or “great”), and Turkic “Qāpū” (meaning “gate”), was given to this place as it was right at the entrance to the Safavid palaces which stretched from the Naqsh e Jahan Square to the ChaharBaq Boulevard. The building, another wonderful Safavid edifice, was built by decree of Shah Abbas I in the early seventeenth century. It was here that the great monarch used to entertain noble visitors, and foreign ambassadors. Shah Abbas, here for the first time, celebrated the Nowruz (Iranian New Year) of 1006 AH / 1597 C.E.

Ali Qapu is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbasi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal, and bird motifs in his works. The highly ornamented doors and windows of the palace have almost all been pillaged at times of social anarchy. Only one window on the third floor has escaped the ravages of time. Ali Qapu was repaired and restored substantially during the reign of Shah Sultan Hussein, the last Safavid ruler, but fell into a dreadful state of dilapidation again during the short reign of invading Afghans. Under the reign of Nasirol Din Shah e Qajar (1848–96), the Safavid cornices and floral tiles above the portal were replaced by tiles bearing inscriptions.

Shah Abbas II was enthusiastic about the embellishment and perfection of Ali Qapu. His chief contribution was given to the magnificent hall, the constructures on the third floor. The 18 columns of the hall are covered with mirrors and its ceiling is decorated with great paintings.

The chancellery was stationed on the first floor. On the sixth, the royal reception and banquets were held. The largest rooms are found on this floor. The stucco decoration of the banquet hall abounds in motif of various vessels and cups. The sixth floor was popularly called the Music Hall. Here various ensembles performed music and sang songs.

From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler watched Chowgan (polo), maneuvers and the horse-racing opposite the square of Naqsh e Jahan.

The palace is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 20,000 rials banknote

 2. ChehelSotoun

This the only surviving palace on the royal precinct that stretched between Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) square and Chahar Bagh Abbasi st., this safavid era complex was built as a pleasure pavilion and reception hall, using the Achaemenid inspired Talar (columnar porch) style. There are historical references to the place dating from 1614, however an inscription uncovered in 1949 says it was completed in 1647 under the watch of Shah Abbas II. Either way, what you see today was rebuilt after a fire in 1706.

The palace is entered via the elegant Talar terrace that perfectly bridges the transition between that perfectly bridges the transition between the Persian love of gardens and interior splendor. Its 20 slender, ribbed wooden pillars rise to a superb wooden ceiling with crossbeams and exquisite inlay work. Chehel Sotun means 40 pillars- the number reflected in the long pool in front of the palace.

Thegreat hall (Throne Hall) contains a rich array of frescoes, miniatures and ceramics. The upper walls are dominated by historical frescoes on a grand scale, sumptuously portraying court life and some of the great battles of the Safavid era- the two middle frescoes (Nos 114 and 115) date from the Qajar era but the other four are original. From right to left, above the entrance door, the armies of Shah Ismail do battles with the Uzbeks; Nader Shah battles Sultan Muhammed (astride a white elephant) on an Indian battleground; and Shah Abbas II welcomes King Nader Khan of Turkestan with musicians and dancing girls.

On the wall opposite the door, also from right to left, Shah Abbas I presides over an ostentatious banquet; Shah Abbas I presides over an ostentatious banquet; Shah Ismail battles the janissaries (infantrymen) of Sultan Selim; and Shah Tahmasb receives Humayun, the Indian prince who fled to Persia in 1543. These extraordinary works survived the 18th century invasion by the Afghans, who whitewashed the paintings to show their disapproval of such extravagance. Other items, including Safavid forebear afi od-din’s hat, are kept in a small museum.

The palace’s garden, Bagh-e chehel Sotun, is an excellent example of the classic Persian Garden from and was recently added to Unesco’s world Heritage list.

3. Hasht-Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) 

4. Shah Caravanserai

5. Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf)

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