Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)

A magic Peacock Dancing With Light
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque feature image2 - Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)
23 Dec

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)

A mosque exclusive to WOMEN! Admire the UNESCO world heritage site, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on the eastern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan. The mosque expresses the architectural brilliance of the Safavid Empire (1501-1722). What does a splendid mosque for women tell us about the women’s situation 400 years ago? Stick with me, I will take you through the history.

Why Visit Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque?

  • An admirable UNESCO world heritage site
  • A dazzling motif of a peacock on the interior dome of the mosque
  • Amazing muqarnas design above the entrance portal
  • One of the few single-layered domes of Safavid architecture
  • Astonishing tile work with arabesque motifs
  • The first Safavid structure built in Naqshe Jahan Square

A Narrative of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

About 400 years ago, the Safavid king, Shah Abbas I, ordered a mosque for royal ladies. The construction of the mosque took 16 years. The peace and architecture of the construction, made Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque a primary refuge for royal ladies. They could practice their religion along with other female practitioners. The mosque was also a great spot for royal women to socialize and share Islamic doctrines with each other. Thus, they could remain religiously as well as socially active.

A Female Mosque, A Masculine Name – Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Shah Abbas primarily intended to provide the royal ladies including his wife with a mosque. However, the mosque features a male name, that is, Sheikh Lotfollah. But how come a female mosque has a male name? The story goes that Shah Abbas dedicated the mosque to his father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, who was a Muslim intellectual. This dedication would be a sign of king’s respect to this prominent Muslim scholar.

Women’s Role in Safavid Empire

Women enjoyed a relative high standing in the Safavid traditions in the sixteenth century. In fact, women could occupy high political positions. Safavid women also participated in public ceremonies and processions. Occasionally, their marriages, were intended as a means to secure partnerships and alliances or strengthen bonds with foreign and local authorities. Surprisingly, certain women could supersede traditional boundaries and assume crucial roles of leadership 400 years ago. Additionally, young female noblewomen had education and training opportunities at that time.

safavid women - Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)

A Safavid Woman

The Distinct Architecture of A Female Mosque – Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Since Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was a private mosque meant for the Safavid royal women, it enjoys a particular architecture. On your journey in Naqsh-e Jahan Square face South to see Shah Mosque. Then turn your face to the East to fabulous Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the art of the architect, Mohammad Reza Isfahani. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is smaller in size than Shah Mosque. It also has no courtyards. The minarets are also missing in the architecture of the mosque. The staircase leading to an elevated platform is yet another distinctive architectural feature of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – The Story of Missing Minarets

No wonder! Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was not a mosque open to public. Since it was a private mosque, it did not need to align with all the Islamic architectural standards. Minarets were tall constructions from where the responsible person for the call to the prayer (Adhan) would recite it three times a day to announce the prayer time publicly. Hence, minarets were regarded as unnecessary architectural elements in a private mosque like Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque.

The Safavid king, Shah Abbas I, provided the highest possible security to protect the royal ladies while they commuted between the palace and the mosque. He ordered an underground tunnel which connected Ali Qapu Palace to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Thus, the royal women did not have to pass through the busy Naqshe Jahan Square, packed with a large number of local and foreign people. This safe approach, in addition to the assigned guards brought about total safety to the Safavid noblewomen.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – The Blue Entrance Portal

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque astonishes visitors with its architectural brilliance right from the beginning. The portal Iwan is subtly adorned with stunning blue mosaics. Also, several fantastic ancient style windows surround the portal Iwan. Equally, the muqarnas patterns, hanging down the Iwan’s arch in the shape of stalactites, contribute to the artistic beauty of the entrance portal.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – The Dark Hallways Leading to the Light

As you walk up the main entrance steps, you realize that the mosque is built on an elevated platform. Passing through the passageway that links the entrance portico and the glamorous prayer’s chamber, you will gradually dive into the darkness before the light shines over you.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – The Rare Peacock Dancing With the Light

Your journey ends in a thrilling peaceful chamber, which you can barely leave. Stand or even lie in the middle of the chamber under the dome. Satisfaction guaranteed! The peacock glamorously adorning the interior of the dome will charm you with its blue lemon-shaped tail bouncing with the light. Immerse yourself fully in joy by watching the wide open tail of the peacock shining with the mid-day sunlight.

coridor sheikh lotfollah - Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)

Passageway of the Mosque Photo – Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

More about Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Visit Hours

In spring and summer from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In fall and winter from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit Days

All days except the religious mourning holidays.

Attractions Near Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Being in the Naqshe Jahan square gives you access to plenty of marvellous tourist attractions. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Grand Bazar, and Ali Qapu Imperial Palace, in addition to Sio Se Pol and Khaju Bridge are some fine examples. Furthermore, Chehel Sotun Palace and Hasht Behesht edifice are worth visiting.

Restaurants Near Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Naqshe Jahan Restaurant

Sharzad Restaurant

Grilled Golestan

Shad Beryani

Hermes Café Restaurant

Like to pay a visit to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque?

Then join one of our multi-day Cultural Tours or our few-hour Walking Tour in Isfahan.

Go on a walking tour in Isfahan’s world-famous Naqsh-e Jahan Square & Jameh Mosque. Explore architecture & history of masterpieces in Isfahan...
1 Day

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on Map

Keywords: sheikh lotfollah mosque isfahan, sheikh lotfollah mosque photos, sheikh lotfollah mosque interior, sheikh lotfollah mosque iran

Zahra Soltani
Content Manager, International Relations Manager

To Zahra, introducing the beauties of Iran is a delight and an inherent mission! Beyond that, arts, culture, literature, mythology, and all the astonishing secrets of our marvelous universe set her soul on fire! This is what makes Zahra a filmophile, an insatiable reader, and a passionate writer.

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