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Isfahan.Baba Qassem Mausoleum
Isfahan.Baba Qassem Mausoleum

The mausoleum, or imâmzâdeh, is another major type of Islamic construction in Iran. Although the veneration of the saints is expressly denounced in the Koran,a number of commemorative monuments were built over important burial places, particularly those of Shi’ite saints, around the ninth and tenth centuries. In Iran and Central Asia1 further constructions commemorated local rulers, Biblical figures, Companions of the Prophet, scholars and even popular heroes.
The first Iranian mausoleums, which date back to the tenth century, are represented today by two types, the canopy tomb and the tower tomb. Canopy tombs are square buildings with openings on all four sides. The best examples can be seen in outer Iran, in particular the tombs of Ismâil the Samanid at Bukhara (914-943) and of Arab-Ata at Tim, near Samarkand (977). Of the tower mausoleums, the most spectacular is without doubt the Gonbad-e Kâvus built in 1006 near Gorgân, in northeast Iran. This conical tower, star-shaped on the outside but circular inside, is 51 metres tall and shows great purity of line and a masterly use of brick.
These two forms of mausoleum were to undergo great diversification from the 11th century onward. The tower-shaped tomb adopted a circular plan, seen in Dâmghân (1027 and 1056), and at the Gonbad-e Ali at Abarkuh (1056), all of which are much shorter than the Gonbad-e Kâvus. The canopy tomb can be square, hexagonal, or octagonal, such as those at Demâvend and Kharaqân. Unlike the tower tombs, of which only the upper sections are decorated, the entire surface of the canopy tombs' outer wall is decorated with geometric brick motifs.
A third very important style at this period, which appears mostly in the northwest, in Azerbaijân, seems to incorporate elements from both the above styles. A good example is the Gonbad-e Qabud at Marâgheh, a domed tower with comer columns, entirely decorated outside. This type of mausoleum, which appears in a variety of shapes (square, circular or polygonal) continued to be built for several centuries.
The tomb of Sultan Uljaitu Khodâbendeh at Soltânieh, near Zanjân, built in 1304, is another form of mausoleum reminiscent

Uljaitu Khodâbendeh at Soltânieh, near Zanjân

of the earlier monuments in eastern Persia such as the tomb of Sanjan at Merv (c. 1152) or the Gonbad-e Hâruniye at Tus, in Khorâssân (early 14th century). These mosque-mausoleums are characterized by their great height, the elevation of the dome itself and the presence of a gallery around the base of the dome.
In addition to these isolated tombs, which are generally built for sultans or local rulers, there are other infinitely larger and more complex mausoleums in Iran which commemorate the Shi’ite Imams or their descendants and which have become important pilgrimage destinations. Two of the main mausoleums of the Shi’ite faith, those of Ali and Hussein, are actually located outside the borders of modern Iran, at Kerbala and Najaf, in Iraq. Among the most popular in Iran itself are the tombs of Fatima, at Qom, of her brother the Imam Rezâ1 at Mashhad, and, a more recent addition, that of the Ayatollah Khomeini near Tehran. In these holy cities, the tombs are part of vast complexes which include a large four-eivân mosque and sometimes one or more madresseh. While the sites of these tombs are generally quite old, the buildings themselves are often more recent. At Qom, for instance, the sanctuary of Shâh lsmâil (1503-1524) is located among Qâjâr and Pahlavi buildings, while at Mashhad the main mosque was built onto a tenth-century sanctuary between 1405 and 1417.

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