The Congregational Mosque of Varamin is the earliest surviving
example of a mosque constructed by the Ilkhanids of Iran. An inscription dates
the mosque to 722 AH (1322 CE), and names the original patrons as Muhammad
ibn-i Muhammad ibn-i Mansur Quhadi and his son Hasan. Another inscription names
the original architect as an ‘Ali Qazvini. Another inscription indicates that
the Amir Ghiyath al-Din Yusuf Khvajah commissioned repairs to the mosque during
the reign of Timurid sultan Shahrukh (r. 1405-1477/807-850 AH). In the
17th/11th century AH, the western side of the mosque collapsed in a flood.
Modern restorations rebuilt this area in 1998/1373 Solar Hijri.
The mosque follows the four-iwan plan for mosques first attested
in the Mosque of Zavarah. An arcade rising a single story originally surrounded
the mosque’s relatively small central courtyard (25 x 25 m), at whose center is
a fountain. The mosque’s main (north) façade includes a monumental entrance
portal that projects out from the façade. This portal is flanked on either side
by blind pointed arches. The portal leads through a vestibule and across an
aisle into the courtyard’s north iwan.
On the qibla (south) side of the courtyard, a broad and shallow
iwan with an arched muqarnas semidome leads onto a domed hall with a mihrab.
The dome rises from a sixteen-sided drum with alternating windows, resting on
an octagonal transitional area formed by four squinches. The height of the dome
chamber, which rises above the height of the other iwans, accentuates this
important space. This impression of size is most prominent when one passes from
the low vault of the iwan to the lofty space of the domed chamber. On
either side of the domed hall, passageways lead onto shabistans (covered prayer
halls) supported by thick piers.
Arcades lining the east and west sides of the courtyard
interrupted by larger iwans at their centers lead onto additional covered
areas. The covered area on the east side of the courtyard is one aisle deep,
while excavations revealed that the equivalent area on the west was two aisle
deep, resulting in an asymmetric plan.
The decorative treatment of the building's surfaces is rich: the
materials employed include plaster, glazed and unglazed terracotta, and glazed
tile-mosaic work. These materials clad the building's brick structure. The
portal iwan features glazed terracotta in dark and light blue forming a
geometric pattern on a background of unglazed terracotta. Its vault is
constructed in such a way that tiers of bricks laid horizontally jut out to
different degrees at different levels to form a semi-dome.
The qibla iwan before the dome chamber is decorated with richly
ornamented geometric patterns in terracotta, above which an inscription band
runs horizontally and marks the beginning of the iwan's vault, which comprises
a cluster of muqarnas units. These units are in turn constructed out of smaller
Intricate plaster floral and vegetal motifs decorate the mihrab's
niche as well as the wall surrounding its pointed arch. An inscription band
frames the mihrab's portal, beyond which plaster spreads like a
three-dimensional tapestry to cover the whole wall. The other three walls
display geometric patterns in terracotta. In many areas, bricks are displayed
so that they extend from the wall to highlight its sculptural qualities.
The dome features a sunburst medallion at its center from which
descends an arabesque of a diamond geometric motif that expands with the curve
of the dome. The spandrels of the arches of the four squinches feature glazed
terracotta and incorporate in their vaults three tiers of muqarnas. Four
windows are situated on the walls of the chambers, each between two
For most contemporary architectural historians, the Friday mosque
of Varamin continues to epitomize the first crystallization of a four-iwan
mosque by the Il Khanids, but also a monumentality achieved by the delicacy of
ornament, the display of rich materials, and the play of light and shadow of
the sculptural architectural elements.
Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan M. Bloom. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 13-14.