This mausoleum is the most celebrated shrine for Iranian Jews, who venerate it as the burial place of two biblical figures, Esther and Mordechai. According to the Book of Esther in the Old Testament, Esther, the wife of Ahasuerus (probably a transcription of Xerxes, the Achaemenid king of Persia ca. the 4th century BCE) saved the lives of her uncle Mordechai and the entire Jewish community in the Persian Empire from a sinister plot by Haman, one of the king's courtiers. The Jewish feast of Purim is based on the tale of Esther. Christians and Muslims alike venerate the shrine, which was once situated within the Jewish quarter of Hamadan. The building is attributed to the fourteenth century.
Oriented toward west (Jerusalem), the mausoleum consists of a 12-meter-high domed chamber (5.3 meters per side) with secondary rooms attached to the north and east. According to historical sources, famous rabbis were buried in these rooms.
The building is accessed through a shallow iwan containing a low doorway with a massive granite door, which obliges visitors to bow upon entering. Interior walls are covered with Hebrew inscriptions executed in stone or plaster. In the main hall are two wooden coffins; these are attributed to Esther and Mordechai and carved in intricate geometric patterns and Hebrew inscriptions. While the sarcophagus attributed to Esther is dated 1291 (692 A.H.), the other was made in the second half of the seventeenth century.
In the early 1970s, the shrine was renovated and expanded by the order of the Iranian Jewish Society. The renovation, undertaken by architect Yassi (Elias) Gabby, involved the demolition of surrounding residential buildings and the erection of a modern synagogue.
"Esther and Mordecai." Encyclopedia Iranica. http://www.iranica.com [Accessed Nov. 30, 2010].