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Feast Your Eyes on the Persian Art of Tilework : Visit 15 Top-Rated Monuments in Iran

It might seem like the art of tiles, after at least three millennia-long run in Iran, is finally on its last legs admitting the changes in Iranian architecture style and common materials during Pahlavi dynasty, made tiles no longer have the prestige they once held and have largely been reduced to utilitarian functions — more a dull backdrop than a delicate handicraft — such as covering bathroom's or kitchen's walls. But using tiles inside the mansions and houses during Qajar era became quite popular and big in Persian houses and mansions especially in cities like Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran and in recent years the popularity of historic boutique hotels and converted heritage houses in tourism industry in Iran and restoration of these houses to change them into the hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops has pushed the architects and industry to shed more attention on the tile work and pay homage to this ancient Persian art.

Persian Tilework

The oldest trace of Persian tilework are the 40 green and Turquoise tiled bricks in the walls of the +3270 year old out-of-this world temple of Choghazanbil in Susa, a UNESCO world heritage site from Elamite period.

The tiles in +2500 year old Achaemenid Apadana palace leafs another important page for the art of Persian tilework. You may glaze at what Darius the Great commanded to come into creation by the artists from different part of the Persian Dynasty depicting Eternal Guards and Griffons Parade with meticulous details and eye-popping colors.

The tilework in the palace of the UNESCO world heritage city of Bishapur city dating back to 266 AD displays some of the masterpieces of the Iranian art of the Sassanid era. The courtyard of the palace takes tile design with mosaics in the form of flowers and plants and a row of black stones was applied as a canvas to fit with the overriding patterns. Some of the scenes occupying the mosaics are a woman weaving a crown, a female harp player and floral and human patterns which were spread on the original mortar on the floor resembling a tiled carpet.

Islamic architecture in Iran opened a dazzling phase into tiling history of Persia and the use of tiles to decorate and strengthen buildings was developed by the Seljuk artisans and architects and touched its utmost handling of techniques and delicacy by Timurids and Safavids. In this period, various tiles such as Muraragh (mosaic faience) tiles, Haft Rang (seven-colored) tiles, geometric monochrome tiles, and Moaqli (a combination of baked brick and panels of faience) served to coat buildings, dome, minarets, ceilings, walls, and altars. The love of Qajars for tilework took it to more palaces, mansions and even houses and more domes and minarets were tiled by the Iranian artisans quite visible in different parts of Iran including Kermanshah, Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran.

Top 15 Iranian Monuments with Inspiring Tilework

Tilework is on board in many historic monuments in Iran including palaces, mosques and houses which have maintained vibrant and colorful decoration and an inviting ambience thanks to this stunning art. We have selected best 15 monuments in Iran that have accommodated tilework in their architecture and we invite you to travel to Iran and visit these site.

Golestan Palace - Tehran

Golestan Palace in Tehran city is an immense sophisticated complex of several palaces and courts from the Qajar period with around 7 thousand square meters of tiling in different techniques and style. Golestan UNESCO world heritage Complex is truly a tile museum. Various tile techniques, including Haft Rang (seven-colored tile), Moaqli (Mosaic faience plus baked brick) , Muaraq {mosaic faience), Zarin Fam (Gold-hued tiles), high and low Relief tiles, and other tiling techniques have taken care of the dazzling beauty of Golestan Palace. This variety helps conduct comparative studies in on tilework.

All the scenes and portraits in Golestan palace tilework were designed under the influence of Qajar other arts or objects such as Lithography, printing, Coffee house paintings, western postcards and photographs.

All the walls facing the courtyard of the palace are embellished with colorful tiles. All the tiles are Haft Rang tiles (seven-colored tiles) painted on underglaze and themes are mainly human, animal, plant and geometric shapes. In the tiles, the portraits of women are used less than other visual elements and the women are always accompanied by an angel and the sun of the picture are always accompanied by the woman of the picture. The sun of highlights the face of the woman and the angel highlights her body.

During the Qajar period, using 7 colors of sunlight, known as Haft Rang technique for making tiles was an important step. The flowering of Haf Rang tiles was related to the economic conditions of the time. The most important features of Qajar underglaze tiles are the variety of colors and patterns and new colors came into play beside the older colors.

Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque - Shiraz

Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque in the city of Shiraz parades the glamour of Iranian art and architecture and attracts people from all over the world and Iran to Shiraz to cherish its charm. Labeled as Pink Mosque or Rose Mosque, what makes this Qajari monument stand out is the generous offering of color by the artists and architects of the time to different materials counting the stained-glass windows, floors, walls and ceilings and also adopting different types of Persian art such as tilework, Muqarnas (stalactite vaulting), stone carving and brickwork.

Lay your eyes on Haft Rang tiles (seven-colored tiles) with the sight of rose and lily flowers at the entrance of the mosque. Getting into the western nave exposes you to one of the most beautiful naves of the mosques in Iran and beyond. The 12 stone spiral pillars are holding 7 beautifully tiled circles of the domed vaulted ceiling and the 7 stained glass windows let their 4 colors dance over the of tiles, bricks and carpets, if you visit this mosque roughly between 8 to 10 AM for the sunlight.

On its northern porch, Nasir-ol-Mulk mosque has a vault so shapely to be titled as the Pearl Vault and is dressed with vivid and colorful tiles like its surrounding vaults.

Royal Mosque - Isfahan

Royal (Sultani) Mosque is one of the two amazing mosques around the Square and was constructed during the Safavid era. A significant building of Islamic architecture, it is one of the most popular sightseeing sites in Isfahan and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site beside the whole Safavid Naqsh-e Jahan square.

The entrance portal ensemble is covered with seven-colored tiles with a great range of colors. The main entrance arch is framed by three rows of light blue decorative spirals and the arch is surrounded by carved marble vases. The half-domed frames are also decorated with stars and ivy growing from the vases. Magnificent frames like rugs covering the entrance are decorated with marble. The rest of the mosque is decorated with seven-colored tiles. At the entrance portal, the Muqarnas (stalactite vaulting) is assembled and contains a mosaic tile frame with the motif of two green peacocks facing each other manifesting  eternity among Iranian symbols. Other tiles depict sparrows, flower and bushes. These motifs are reminiscent of paradise and its refreshing and eternal gardens.

Eram Garden - Shiraz

The +900 year old Eram garden in Shiraz city, enriched with a wide variety of trees and flowers has achieved the UNESCO world heritage site recognition as a sophisticated Persian garden. Its impressive Qajari pavilion established by Nasir-ol-Molk cradles some of the finest Haft-Rang (seven-tiled) tile scenes including the three semi-lunar frames at the top of the main building which display four scenes: Rostam in the court of King Solomon (upper crescent), the fainting of servants after seeing Prophet Joseph (left crescent), the bathing of Shirin while Khosrow is watching (right crescent), and the horse riding of Naser al-Din Shah are illustrated in the solar center.

Polychrome tiles coating the facade resemble the Zands and Qajars styles with impressive patterns and colors. On the building edges a fine rhythm of white, black, turquoise and buff colored mosaic tiles can be seen over a round canvas.

Blue Mosque - Tabriz

Blue, Kabud or Muzaffarid Mosque of Tabriz dating back to the Qara Qoyunlu era in 15th century takes its name from its Turquoise, blue and azure enamel tilework.

The portal of this mosque is built on a high ground and an oval arch can be seen in its upper part. On both sides columns connected to the building are raised in a spiral shape and an oval crescent is formed in the upper part. All of these columns are wrapped with exquisite turquoise tiles with beautiful patterns. Internal surfaces of the portico is dressed with colorful tiles; These tiles are cut into small pieces and skillfully put together and displays an exquisite scene full of bushes and flowers. The blue color of the background has shattered the consistent uniformity of the design without damaging its grace. Because of this prevalent blue tiles, it is calleds Blue Mosque. This style of tiling is superior to the specific geometrical compositions of the Seljuk and Mongol periods.

This main entrance leads to the nave which is of two large halls which are different from each other and both used to have domes. The first hall is decorated with colorful tiles and the second hall, where the niche is located, is decorated with small octagonal tiles, the color of which is azure enamel. Inscriptions written in Arabic script with leaves and flowers are mingled. Bricks and tiles can be seen in different forms in the Blue Mosque of Tabriz.

Soltaniyeh - Zanjan

Founded in the 14th century, Soltanieh complex carries one of the largest brick domes in the world that was the first double-shell dome in Iran also. With its turquoise colored dome and big size it is visible form the distance. This Ilkhanid structure is recorded as a UNESCO world heritage site.

The main view of the dome with 8 minarets on the top of the 8 porches on the second floor, next to the 24 arches and their decorative borders offer the most alluring tiling which is sometimes accompanied by inscriptions. In the interior, there are two decorative layers with tiles. The first layer is in the mosaic style in dark blue, light green, black, white and yellow colors, with complex geometric designs and combinations of star motifs that are covered with plaster in the second layer.

The arch on the first floor is tiled and on the second floor of the north-east, east, north and south-west porches, beautiful tiling in the mosaic style has been implemented using white, green and yellow blue tiles.

Moshir-ol-Molk Mosque - Shiraz

Commissioned by Mirza Abul Hasan Khan Moshir-ol-Molk and completed in 1858, this spectacular historic mosque is located in Sang-e Siah district in Shiraz, in the neighborhood of Armenian Bazaar.

The western porch of the courtyard is decorated with tiles, Muqarnas (stalactite vaulting) work, beautiful inscriptions, niche and stone plinth, and the oldest clock tower of Shiraz are installed on top of it. The main nave of the mosque is located on this side standing on 10 stone pillars and boasts a tile Mihrab (niche).

The northern porch and its domed vaulted ceiling with 4 tiled circles and its tiled Muqarnas (stalactite vaulting) is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and is titled as the Pearl Vault. In the space behind this porch, there is a nave, which is called Maqsurah. The vault and dome of this nave is placed on four stone pillars. In front of the western porch and similar to it, the eastern porch is decorated with tiles, Muqarnas (stalactite vaulting) and Quranic inscriptions. Two tiled Goldasteh minarets are standing on top of this vault.

Takyeh Moaven-ol-Molk - Kermanshah

Takyeh Moaven-ol-Molk in Kermanshah is a Qajar building from built in 1902 located in the Lab Abshuran neighborhood of Kermanshah and is famous for its unique tile work. The Haft Rang (seven-colored) and high and low relief tiles coated with natural colors display various scenes from Achaemenid kings to noblemen of the Qajar period, prophets, imams and religious figures and narrate stories from the heart of history. The visual richness and variety of colors of the tiling of this support are such that it is described as a building with story-telling tiles.

The big number of tiles, their variety and the number of artists involved in making these tiles make this building an exhibition of the works of famous tile makers of the Qajar era. The head to toe is covered with colorful tiles telling so many stories.

Moghadam House - Tehran

Moghadam House and Museum in Tehran is one of the lofty houses of the Qajar era, belonging to one of the courtiers of that era, named Mohammad Taqi Khan Ehtesam al-Mulk.

In the northern part of this building, a porch with several arches and beautiful columns has been set up, which is decorated with tiles from the Zandiyeh and Qajar periods. In the middle of this porch, there is a marble basin, which was moved here from Fath Ali Shah's Hammam, and the water that flows from it flows into a pool through a narrow stream.

The wall between Andaruni and Biruni is made of several columns with tiled arches. The bases of these columns are carved and resemble the columns of the Chehel Sotoun Palace of Isfahan. The bases of the columns were moved to this house during the destruction of Naser al-Din Shah's sister's palace and have created a beautiful setting with turquoise columns. The design and construction of this beautiful wall was planned by master Hoshang Sihon. 

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque - Isfahan

The portal of Safavid Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque with Muaragh tilework was built in 1602 AD and the building and its decorations were completed in 1619 AD. Inside and outside the unique dome is covered with exquisite mosaic tiles. It is based on several tall curved arches and is decorated with Quranic verses and is decorated with very delicate Islamic motifs, which leads to an eight-pointed star made of colorful mosaic tiles in the outer layer. Its peak also leads to a cap decorated with regular spheres, the niche consists of a dental arch on top of which delicate Islamic motifs are engraved. This curved arch has shell-shaped Muqarnas from the inside, which are decorated with beautiful plant motifs at the end.

Its beautiful niche is coated with exquisite tiling and very delicate Muqarnas.

The convoluted arch has shell-shaped Muqarnas on the inside, which are decorated with beautiful plant motifs.

Imam Reza Shrine - Mashhad

The tiles in the Timurid and Safavid periods have an azure background, which is a symbol of water, and the leaves and some other elements of the patterns were mostly blue and turquoise. Another difference of the Timurid and Safavid tileworks, which distinguished them from the Qajar period, was more use of Muaraq tiles.

The tilework in the Azadi section belong to the Qajar period. The color of the background in the Revolution Hall is azure and blue, which turns into yellow and red here. The painting style of this period, which is displayed on the tiles of Azadi section, is realism, like fruit trees.

The walls, around the 92 cm high in Rowzeh Monavareh section, are decorated with Sanjari tiles, which date back to the early 13th century. These tiles are covering the two-meter walls;  and with the inscription around the external front, in the portico of Dar al-Hafaz, are the oldest tiles of the Islamic era in Iran. These tiles are very beautiful and elegant in brown, turquoise, azure and white colors. They are in geometric shapes and has a significant difference with most of the tiles of later periods and even other tiles of the shrine.

Sheikh Abdul Samad tomb - Natanz

Sheikh Abdul Samad Esfahani was a famous Sufi of the Ilkhanate period in the 13th century.  This tomb and mosque is a Masterpiece of the Ilkhanate period and in terms of architecture and tilework.

The mausoleum of Sheikh Nuruddin Abdul Samad Natanzi has an octagonal and conical dome with two walls. The outer wall is made of bricks and turquoise tiles, and the inner wall has a unique plaster work. Looking from the center of the mausoleum to the Muqarnas work under the dome, a flower pattern can be observed, the petals of which are opened downwards, and an inscription is carved around the lower part of the dome in the form of a triangle on the canvas of flowers and bushes.

It is a tall and beautiful minaret that has attracted the attention of many visitors due to its interesting style and tile decorations, especially the wide and turquoise inscription on its stem. The height of the minaret is 37 meters and it has 118 spiral steps. This minaret is located between the blue pediment of the monastery and the white pediment of the mosque, and it leads to other parts of the complex with a vaulted nave whose level is equal to that of Sheikh Abdul Samad's tomb.

Sheikh Safi Al-Din Ardabili Shrine - Ardabil

The mausoleum of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili was built after his death in 1345 AD and is considered a masterpiece of art and architecture so it deserved to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The main part of the wall of the tower is decorated with octagonal designs of blue tiles in the context of red bricks, and inside them the words (Allah Allah) are skillfully embedded in blue tiles.

Above the main part of the dome stem, in a deep border, an inscription in leafy Kufic script is embedded with brown tiles, and below it, another inscription of Quranic verses is written in white calligraphy.

The floor of the octagonal tomb is covered with white stone and colored clay tiles in brick color, and the walls up to a height of 2.30 meters are covered with wooden plinths and 50 cm higher with cement.

The tomb chamber has an almost rectangular design with dimensions of 3 meters by 5 meters and 25 cm. Above it, there is a dome cover. The floor of the room is decorated with three different types of tiles with blue, yellow, black, white and green flowers and the walls are covered up to a height of 1.69 meters with garlic blue clay tiles with golden flowers on them.

Jameh Mosque - Isfahan

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, which is also known as Friday Mosque and Jame Atiq Mosque, is one of the oldest and most important buildings in the city of Isfahan and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The tiling of Isfahan Jame Mosque, the niche of Jame Mosque and its other architectural elements are considered masterpieces of Islamic art.
This building has a courtyard with four porches (60 x 70 meters), which is surrounded by open two-story porches and corridors with tiles or pea color bricks.
The south porch, which is based on Seljuk architecture, was built in the early 12th century. Its roof, which is composed of large Muqarnas, was rebuilt at the end of the 15th century by the efforts of Amir Hasan Beik Aq Quyotlu. The marble plinths and various panels of the prominent mosaic tiles that decorate this porch and the tiling behind the lower arches belong to the reign of Ozen Hassan.

Shahcheragh Shrine - Shiraz

Shahcheragh is the tomb of Mir Seyyed Ahmad, the brother of Imam Reza. The building over his tomb was built by the time of Atabakan, and during the dynasties such as Safavid, Afshar, Zand, Qajar, Pahlavi and the current government have expanded it. 

The dome of the shrine  is one of the most beautiful tiled domes. The surface of the dome is more than five hundred square meters. Its height is 14 meters and its maximum diameter is 14 meters. The stem of the dome has a height of 2.5 meters and an area of 80 square meters, the height of Muqarnas is 1.20 meters and an area of 40 square meters. The Muaraq tilework of the dome is black, cream, green, brown, yellow, white, turquoise, azure and gold colors.


Iran Day tours

Take our city tours and go sightseeing to explore some of the top monuments in Iran and marvel at the tilework art in these sites.
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