'Abd al-Samad, a shaykh of the Suharwardi Sufi order, died in Natanz in 1299. During the decade that followed, the site of his grave was developed by the vizier Zayn al-Din Mastari into what has survived to be one of the best preserved of Il-Khanid shrine complexes.
The much-admired façade of colorful glazed tile, terracotta, and stucco bends slightly to bring together the four constituent structures that lie behind; a four-iwan mosque, an octagonal sanctuary, a minaret, and a mosque from the 1930's fronted by a khanaqah portal. The organization of these structures at varying angles and on multiple floor levels reflects the difficulty with which they were inserted into the existing built context.
The portal on the western end of the façade is the only remains of an early fourteenth century khanaqah that was destroyed and replaced by a mosque in the 1930s. The center of the façade is composed as a triple arcade, behind the central arch of which there is a minaret with an inscription dated 725/1324-25. Another portal on the eastern end of the façade provides entry to the complex by way of a sunken narrow corridor. An inscription on this portal reveals that the building is a mosque built by Zayn al-Din Mastari in 704/ 1304-5.
The square courtyard mosque is faced by two stories of rooms that link four iwans of varying depths. Construction is of baked brick, with a coat of white plaster. Muqarnas vaults are found in the north and south iwans. Two bays at the rear of the south iwan flank the mihrab, leading to the domed octagonal sanctuary, which abuts the main façade.
Restoration during the 1970's revealed that this sanctuary predates the courtyard mosque and was originally a freestanding Buyid pavilion from 389/999. In its original state the pavilion was open on all sides to a vaulted ambulatory supported by columns. This pavilion constitutes the earliest dated example of an octagonal form in Iran and although the form is not unusual in tomb towers in Iran, the later extant examples are closed. The openness of the Natanz pavilion evokes the earlier open canopy tomb, and with such evidence, Blair argues that this pavilion was originally built as an imamzada or shrine for a descendant of the Prophet.
Blair, Sheila S. The Ilkhanid Shrine Complex at Natanz, Iran. Cambridge, MA: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, 1986.
Blair, Sheila S. "The Octagonal Pavilion at Natanz: a Reexamination of Early Islamic Architecture in Iran." Muqarnas 1, (1983): 69-94.
Hutt, Antony. "Iran." In Architecture of the Islamic World, George Michell, editor, 251-258. London, New York: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978.
Pope, Arthur Upham. "The Fourteenth Century." In A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, edited by Pope, Arthur Upham and Phyllis Ackerman (assistant editor), Vol. 3 Architecture, Its Ornament, City Plans, Gardens, 3rd ed., 1052-1102. Tehran: Soroush Press, 1977.
Shaykh 'Abd al-Samad Shrine Complex (Translated)
Shrine of Shaykh 'Abd al-Samad (Variant)
Shrine Complex of Shaykh 'Abd al-Samad: Octagonal Pavilion (Variant)