TEHRAN, July 18 (MNA) -- An expert of the restoration team of the Soltanieh Dome, which has just been registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List, said on Monday that the dome has a perfect level of architectural decorative arts and is a masterpiece of the Ilkhanid era.

“Ilkhanid kings used to demonstrate their kingdom’s power and splendor through the construction of buildings with beautiful decorative architecture. Soltanieh has various kinds of tile work, including mosaic faience and luster tiles, which are characterized by varied structure and characteristics,” Saeid Kashani told the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency.


“The tile works are mainly in turquoise and azure, which were more commonly used than other colors during the Ilkhanid era. In addition, the tile works of the monument are in characteristic aubergine and white. Although no precise formula had been invented for white color at that time, the white that was used in the tile works is very stable and beautiful,” he added.


Soltanieh, the mausoleum of Oljaitu, was constructed from 1302 to 1312 in the city of Soltanieh, the capital of the Ilkhanids, Mongol descendents of Genghis Khan who controlled large parts of Iran from 1256 to 1349.


Situated in Zanjan Province, Soltanieh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The octagonal building is crowned with a dome 50 meters in height covered in turquoise blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets.


It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in Iran. The mausoleum’s interior decoration is also outstanding and scholars such as A.U. Pope have described the building as “anticipating the Taj Mahal.”


Kashani said that the monument has been restored four times. The first time was during the Ilkhanid era, and the second restoration took place during the reign of the Safavids (1502-1736), who planned to convert the building into an Islamic seminary.


The monument was renovated for the third time by Italian experts during the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979). The renovation work was carried out in winter with plaster and earth, which were frozen due to the cold weather. Thus the tile works collapsed after a short time. Under the supervision of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, a team of Iranian experts is currently restoring the monument for the fourth time.


The experts created more than 3000 samples of glaze in order to determine an appropriate formula to restore the tile work. The restoration has been carried out in the monument’s traditional style with original materials.


“Evidence indicates that the Ilkhanid artists also intentionally used the best materials and glaze for the tile work from the beginning… (and) that the technology used in the construction of the monument was ahead of its time. The artists regarded tile working and making colors for the art as a kind of alchemy. In fact, after the advent of Islam, Iranian artists abandoned sculpture and goldsmith work for the motifs and beautiful colors of tile work,” said Kashani.


“The tiles have been made with a high level of sturdiness and resistance, so it was difficult to rediscover the formula. We have made tiles for about 700 square meters,” he added.


The restoration work on the façade will be completed by the end of March 2006, said Kashani, who has been a member of the restoration team since 1999.


Soltanieh is the world’s third tallest religious monument after the Saint Mary Church in the Italian city of Florence and the Aya Sofia Mosque in Istanbul. The monument was constructed during the reign of Sultan Mohammad Khodabandeh (Oljaitu) with the aim of making it the new tomb of Imam Ali (AS), but he was unable to realize his goal.


Soltanieh was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 15, 2005 during the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee held in Durban, South Africa.






News Code 12073

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