17th century mosque for Shah Abbas’ harem
Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque was completed in 1619 after nearly 20 years of work. Today, the mosque stands as a magnificent and detailed public work. However, when it was originally built it was a private and luxurious place of worship for Shah Abbas I and the women of his court.
Lavished with elaborate calligraphy of Quranic verses and multi-colored mosaics, the mosque is definitely fit for a king. Every tile was laid with precision and the main dome is dominated by a peacock that changes color and shape as light reflects off of the mosque’s interior.
Adjacent to the mosque is the Ali Qapu palace, where Shah Abbas resided with a sizable harem. Along with commissioning the mosque, Shah Abbas also commissioned an underground passageway between the palace and the place of worship. This allowed the women of his harem to secretly make their passage to the mosque without being seen by passerby on the square, thus giving the building its nickname, the Women’s Mosque.
During the 17th century after it was built, the mosque was not open to the public, and served only as a private sanctuary. Today, it is open to everyone and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.