Study Aid 2: Thrones of God: Islamic Architecture In India,
Iran and Turkey In the 16th and 17th Centuries

As Islam spread across Asia, Africa and Europe, a wide range of ethnic groups developed their own interpretations of basic Islamic architectural forms and needs. Once established, the architecture of many of these Islamic cultures underwent even further development, as designers explored innovative approaches to aesthetics and structure.

The Safavid dynasty ruled much of what is now Iran from 1501-1732. The most important ruler of the dynasty for our studies was Shah Abbas I (ruled 1586-1629) who expanded and beautified the old city of Isfahan for his capital. Building on earlier Persian designs that included tiled "onion" domes and iwans (great porches or portals often set within frames known as pistaq), Shah Abbas' architects built a city of multicolored monuments (e.g. Masjid-i-Shah, 1611-1630, arch: Abu'l Qasim?), great gardens and an enormous public square called the Maiden-i-Shah.

The Mughal's were a Muslim dynasty that originally came from Central Asia, but conquered and subjected much of India from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Culturally influenced by the Persians, as well as the native Hindus (e.g. palace complex at Fathepur Sikri, 1571-81, Patron: Akbar), the Mughals created some of the world's most beautiful buildings, (e.g. the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, 1632-1643, patron: Emperor Shah Jehan).

The Ottoman empire was formed by Turkish tribes in Asia around 1300 and over the next several centuries expanded their territories to include most of the land formerly controlled by the Byzantine empire and the Islamic caliphs in the Middle East and North Africa. The Ottomans finally vanquished the ancient, if shrunken, Byzantine empire when it captured Constantinople in 1453. The Ottomans made the city their capital and renamed it Istanbul. The greatest architect of the Ottoman empire in the sixteenth century was Sinan, who built monumental complexes for several kings or sultans. One of his masterpieces is the civic/religious complex (a kulliye) called the Süleymaniye (aka the Süleyman Mosque and kulliye) which Sinan built for Sultan Süleyman I in Istanbul between 1550-1557. The dome of the great mosque in the complex was a conscious effort to surpass the Hagia Sofia on the part of patron and architect.


Date: 1590-1602
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Patron: Shah Abbas I

Axonometric View of the Maidan-i-Shah

Early Perspective View of the Maidan-i-Shah

Aerial View of the Maidan-i-Shah

Date: 1600s
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Patron: Shah Abbas I

Interior View of the Great Bazaar

Date: 1642-1647
Location: Isfahan, Iran

Khwaju Bridge

Date: 1706-1718
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Patron: Shah Abbas I

Plan of the Madrasa Madir-i-Shah

View of the Madrasa Madir-i-Shah

Date: 1586-1629
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Patron: Shah Abbas I

Maidan-i-Shah with the Masjid-i-Shah in the Background

Date: 1611-1630
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Architect: Abu'l Qasim?
Patron: Shah Abbas I

Axonometric View of the Masjid-i-Shah

Section of the Mosque

Aerial View of the Masjid-i-Shah

View of the Atrium

Atrium with Iwan Leading into the Mosque

Exterior View of the Dome

Detail of the Dome

Entrance Portal with Muquarna Vaults

Interior of Mosque with Minbar and Mihrab

Interior View of the Dome

Taj Mahal

Date: 1632-1643
Location: Agra, India
Architect: Unknown
Patron: Emperor Shah Jehan

Plan of the Grounds

Plan of the Taj Mahal

Aerial View

View of the Taj and Gardens
From the Complex's Gatehouse

Exterior Detail

Detail View of the Facade

Detail of Exterior Elevation



Date: 1550-1557
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Architect: Mimar Sinan
Patron: Sultan Süleyman

Plan and Section of Mosque

Plan of Kulliye and Mosque

Schematic Axonometric

Aerial View


Guest Accommodations

Interior of Mosque

Interior of Mosque
View of the Dome