A STUDY ON THE MEANING OF THE ROOF IN THE SAFAVID ARCHITECTURE

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Abstract

Vaulting (roof) is a covering surface at the top of the space. Richness and variety of vaulting in Iran's architecture differ from those in other cultures. In Persian literature applying the term "Aseman-eh", which means ceiling and is rooted in the word "Aseman" or sky, indicates the ethereal aspect of the Iranian ceilings. This fact appeared particularly in Safavid era that a symbolic articulation governed the absence and appearance of architecture. This paper aims at analyzing the symbolic meaning of vaulting in Safavid era. This is achieved through collecting liberal and field data from seven cases of vaultings in Safavid buildings. Cases are selected from great mosques and schools that had been more influenced by spiritual and cultural aspects of Safavid society. These cases are obtained from Jami Mosque of Isfahan, Chah?r B?gh School (Shah School), Sheykh Lofolah Mosque and Hakim Mosque. First of all, each case is introduced by means of applied symbols in forms, ornaments, cityscape, and lighting. Subsequently their meanings are suggested based on the historical liberal documents. Finally, qualitative analysis (comparing) of the symbols and their meaning results in for layers of meaning.The first layer of meanings is the concept of "sky" that is realized from the curved form and central geometry of domes and is repeated in pre Islam as well as after Islam eras of Iranian architecture. In Safavid era, the natural meaning of sky elevates to an ethereal one. General structure of form and geometrical characteristics of space beneath domes, result in the meaning of "Unity" as the second layer. A balanced and symmetrical space that greatly emphasizes on the vertical axe on the center of domed chamber articulates the massage of moving from multiplicity to unity. To develop these two concepts, the meaning of "paradise" appears. Embodiment of this meaning came to view in wall ornaments of previous mosques, but in Safavid era considering the comment application of Haft-Rang tiling, this concept manifests in vaulting. Consequently, internal and external surfaces of vaultings are covered with arabesque patterns intermingled with colorful flowers in a ultramarine background. The most elevated meaning of vaulting in this era is the meaning of "Shiite Perfect Man" that is the reality of the paradise and is referred to Imam Ali (pbuh) in Shiite wisdom. This meaning is embodied in the great domes, in the heart of spiritual spaces and extended from domed chamber to the Jami Mosque or School and from there throughout the entire city spaces. The result of this paper indicates that In Safavid era a galaxy of new Shiite concepts completes and enriches the meaning of vaulting. Consequently, besides two meanings of "The sky" and "unity" belonged to domes of previous eras of Islamic architecture, two new meanings of "Paradise" and "Shiite Perfect Man" came in to view. Not only are not these newly appeared meanings contradictory, but also they are compatible, in harmony and complete previous ideas.

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