Āqābozorg Mosque (Masjed-e Āqābozorg)
Aqa Bozorg Mosque and Madreseh
Masjed va Madrese-ye Aqa Bozorg
The imposing Aqa Bozorg complex, consisting of a mosque and a madreseh, was founded under the patronage of Hajj Mohammad Taqi Khanian during the years 1834-49. The mosque was built for Friday congregational prayers, while the college was created especially for Mullah Mohammad Mahdi Naraqi (better known as Aqa Bozorg), the 19th-century preacher, jurist, and theologian of Kashan, as well as the founder's son-in-law. With its eye-catching portal, a two-shelled dome with two lofty minarets, outstanding architectural layout, and exquisite decorations completed with notable precision, th is building ranks among the most remarkable Iranian buildings of the 2nd half of the 19th century - the period when Iranian architecture, as that of the majority of the world, was in decadence and decay.
Aqa Bozorg is a five-story structure built of mud brick, which proved to be the best constructional material in this desert region. Tile and stucco are applied as the interior ornamentation of the mosque and seminary.
The complex is entered through a superb portal 1, with painted moqarnas decorations of unrivalled beauty. The portal leads to a spacious anteroom 2, and then, through the side corridors, to the courtyard 3, As bands and arches of the rooms are decorated with geometric tile-and-brick ornaments. On the north side, the courtyard has a large basement 6, which is used in hot seasons for preaching and prayer. The basement is kept cool is customary in Kashan, the courtyard is sunken and is on two different levels. The lower floor has a pool 4, and some flowerbeds and belongs to the madreseh. It is bordered on three sides by twelve students' dorms 5, and some auxiliary structures. The plat by the soaring badgirs (wind-towers) 7. On the upper floor, the courtyard is bordered on the eastern and western sides bytwo passages lined by rows of service chambers 8. These passages lead from the entrance to the sanctuary 9. Stairways connecting the two tiers of the courtyard are located in its four corners. The building's layout is masterful enough to instill admiration in any visitor. The sanctuary is entered through an eivan 10, surmounted by two tile-decorated minarets 11. The huge dome of the sanctuary and the minarets of the eivan are the highest structures to be found in Kashan. Because of the hot and arid climate of this town, the sanctuary was opened on every side to proVide ventilation and air conditioning of the structure. However, today the sanctuary is Open only On three sides. On the west side, it is closed by a prayer hall 12, that was built by Aqa Bozorgs Son, Hajj Mullah Mohammad Ali. At that time, this prayer hall was separated from the sanctuary by a fretted sash door. The interior of the sanctuary is embellished with elaborate plaster decorations, wavy inscriptions, and handsome brickwork. As an exception to the general rule, the mihrah is located in the corner of the mosque.
Behind the sanctuary to the east and south are smaller Courtyards 13. In the past, they housed service sections, including pools, a water storage tank, and a well with an electric pump. A prayer hall in the basement was built prior to the entire structure by Hajj Shalan Ali Poshr Mashhadi, the renowned architect of Kashan. The prayer hall features 25 brick vaults.
Attached to the complex are several tombs that belong to the fonner custodians of The madreseh. There is also a crypt of the Naraqi family.
Despite numerous repairs that took place On the site throughout its existence, the structure has changed very little. Only wooden doors and windows have been replaced either with modern replicas or, in the majority of cases, With brick and plaster partitions. The complex features many remarkable inscriptions. The first is on the portal. It is written in Nastaliq and cites a verse by the poet Hasrat. It bears the date of 1851. Another inscription in Nastaliq is in the prayer hall. Dated 1846, it gives the name of the calligrapher - Mohammad ibn Mohammad Hossein. Running along the perimeter of the dome is also an inscription in Tholth carved in plaster in low relief. It is dated 1847 and the work of the calligrapher named Asadollah.