This time, to introduce a city like Isfahan, we go to those who were present in the most prosperous and glorious historical period of this city, and their existing manuscripts provide much better information to readers and seekers than any other sources.
These people were tourists who tried to reach Isfahan while crossing countries and continents and seeing the world because the depiction of Isfahan’s beauty in the 16th century went beyond the borders of Iran and its neighbors and reached the Europeans who had just came out of the darkness of the Middle Ages and started the brilliant Renaissance.
Jean Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Adam Olearius, Carrie, Engelbert Kempfer, and others have mentioned Isfahan with pleasant details. Isfahan had the chance to be chosen by one of the smart, art-loving and, of course, powerful kings of Iran as the capital of the glorious Safavid reign, and what this king started in Isfahan still shows off, today.
Today, Isfahan is an industrial and one of the most powerful metropolises of Iran, and perhaps we are not mistaken if we say that all this perseverance in beautifying the urban and social structure is the result and legacy of the period when Isfahan was the capital of Iran.
Isfahan, with an area of 551 square kilometers and a population of more than 5 million people is the third-largest city in Iran and the third most populous city in the country, which reaches the desert in the north and east and the Zagros Mountains in the west and south.
Isfahan is located on a flat plain and mountain ranges can be seen in three or four miles of the city. This city is located in the valley of Zayandehrud, a little to the east of the place where the river enters the central plain after originating from around Koohrang and passing through the Zagros mountains. Since Isfahan is located in the plains; In terms of access to water, it is fertile and the soil of the adjacent area, which consists of overgrowth, is very favorable for agriculture and is irrigated by water obtained from the Zayandehrud and some springs. According to Tavernier, this climate of Isfahan has made Gaz Isfahan’s special candy.
The capital owes much of its purity and prosperity to this river, but unfortunately, as Iran faces successive droughts during these forty years of misery, the Zayandehrud gradually dried up. The water of the river gave a special effect to the amazing bridges that were built on it. Today, without this sacred water, the bridges are deprived of both the proximity of water and the people who walk on them every evening.
In the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries there were many fruit trees in the four famous gardens of Isfahan, such as apple, pear, fig, apricot, peach, pomegranate, lime, orange, oak, hazelnut, cherry, raspberry, and grapes. Forty gardeners were responsible for taking care of them, and when the fruits arrived, everyone could eat as much fruit as they wanted by paying a small amount of money, but they were not allowed to take the fruit out of the garden with them.
“… It is admirable that in this large and densely populated city, even though people do not have access to the sea, they live in abundance and prosperity,” says Chardin.
In 1597 AD, Shah Abbas the Great, chose Isfahan as his capital instead of Qazvin. Earlier, the Seljuk sultans and others had built beautiful mansions such as the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, but Shah Abbas was the first to give it a unique kind of beauty and make it one of the most important cities of its time.
Thus, Isfahan officially became the new capital of the Safavid Empire, and according to the order of Shah Abbas I, the construction of some administrative and royal centers, which had already begun, continued, and some existing buildings were prepared for the transfer of the capital to Isfahan.
It was a huge public square and a centralized boulevard that dubbed Isfahanis as “Nesf-e Jahan” which means that Isfahan is half the world. Shah Abbas changed the map of the city and rebuilt it.
In Naqsh-e Jahan Square (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), he constructed magnificent buildings such as the Shah Mosque in the south corner and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in the east and front of it, Ali Qapu. Caesarea Bazaar should also be mentioned, the entrance of which is located in the northern corner of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in front of the southern corner of the Shah Mosque.
There is no doubt that Shah Abbas I showed a lot in choosing Isfahan as the capital of reason. This land was safe from attack due to its remoteness from the border, and its climate was excellent and in a fertile area. Of course, by choosing Isfahan, he also established a land connection center, which was located in the center of the country, halfway between Azerbaijan and The Persian Gulf.
Isfahan showed the structure of the government. Shah Abbas and his immediate successors saw Isfahan as a map in which the relationship between the new monarchical structure, the composition of power, and Safavid-Persian society was drawn on it. Isfahan was ready to be Safavid’s political, religious, social, and cultural domination.
Isfahan has also been one of the bases of traditional Iranian music. Many musicians, singers, musicians, and composers were born in Isfahan and learned the basics of music in this city. And finally, Isfahan has handicrafts, such as engraved tablecloths, which are still used by Iranian families.
What is best to see when visiting Isfahan?
Isfahan Fire Station
One of the historical monuments left from the Sassanid dynasty is the Zoroastrian fireplace of Isfahan, which due to its long history is one of the 3 ancient relics left from ancient times in Isfahan province and also one of the 7 great fire temples in Iran.
Shah Abbas was not only a field thinker dedicated to the city but also due to the greatness of the Zayandehrud, he thought of building strong and beautiful bridges, so that today, the name of Si-o-Se Pol comes to mind immediately after Isfahan. This popular bridge was built on the Zayandehrud during the reign of Shah Abbas Safavid in the 16th century by the famous architect Hossein Bana Esfahani and connects the four Abbasi gardens to the four upper gardens. According to world-renowned architects, Si-o-Se Pol is a kind of masterpiece of art that has excited many poets to write poems describing this bridge.
In every city, there is an atmosphere that conveys a sense of calm and cheerfulness to local people and tourists. Khaju Bridge was built in the 17th century by the order of Shah Abbas II Safavid using mortar, stone, and brick. On both the west and east sides of this bridge, there is a beautiful building with special architecture and several rooms with stunning paintings, which is known as Shah-Neshin (a sort of arched Ivan in traditional Persian architecture); in this place, kings and princes sat to watch swimming and boating competitions.
Another popular attraction of Isfahan, whose name is enough to tempt any tourist to rush to see it is the Palace of Eight Heavens (in Persian, Hasht Behesht), which, as the name suggests, is an earthly paradise that will be interesting for any viewer with its octagonal masterpieces. This beautiful palace, like other monuments in Isfahan, dates back to the Safavid era. A two floors mansion in the middle of a green garden in the style of Isfahani architecture. The palace has a unique architecture with beautiful arches and plaster decorations, seven-color tiles, and gorgeous Muqarnas.
The walls of the mansion and the rooms are decorated with paintings, gilding with shapes of various birds and colorful flowers, sash windows, and mirror work in turning the palace into one of the most brilliant architectural masterpieces of the Safavid era.
New Julfa and Vank Cathedral of Isfahan
When Shah Abbas I decided to build Isfahan to be worthy of the status of the Safavid dynasty, he brought many Armenians from Julfa of Azerbaijan to Isfahan because their handicrafts prospered Isfahan’s economy. For these displaced Armenians not to feel homesick, a special neighborhood in a pleasant climate was allocated to them, which today is the best place for walking and having coffee in its cozy cafes.
As we can understand from the azure inscription on the western entrance of Vank Cathedral, the construction of Vank Cathedral or Amena Perkich Church started during the reign of Shah Abbas II in 1655 AD and lasted for about 10 years. The church has two domes in the style of Safavid-Persian mosques; The large and main dome of the church is located on the front of the altar. All around the dome, the story of the creation of Adam and Eve is painted by the hands of Armenian painters, and the altar and walls, arches, and collars and inside the dome are decorated with attractive paintings of the Holy Bible. All the valuable paintings of the church were created by Armenian masters such as Caliph Hovhannes Merkoz, Priest Stepanos, and Master Minas.
One of the attractions of Isfahan that has amazed everyone is the Monar Jonban, which has attracted a lot of tourists due to its unique architecture. The reputation of the minarets is due to the special feature, which by moving one minaret, another minaret and the whole building moves too. This feature can be seen in the works of other countries, but the difference between the minarets of Isfahan and other movable minarets is that in addition to the movement of the minarets, other parts of the building also move.
And last but not least.
Naghsh-e-Jahan Square of Isfahan and Jameh Mosque
The foundation of Isfahan is attached to this square. Perhaps because of its indescribable beauty and creative architecture seen found in the buildings around the square, UNESCO has designated it as a World Heritage Site. In the UNESCO World Heritage section on our website, we have dealt in detail with this square and the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan.