The Impact of Architecture on Ornamentation of Isfahan's Churches in the Safavid Era
Isfahan, one of the historical cities of Persia, blossomed in architecture in the reign of the Safavid kings for its particular position. This city was chosen as capital by Shah Abbas the Great and in it many mosques, palaces, bridges, roads, and gardens were established. Furthermore, its development continued in to the reign of Shah Abbas II.
With the emergence of Shah Abbas the Great, the golden era of Safavid architecture started. Although this era was not the paramount of Persian architecture, it was the glorification of Islamic architecture. In contrast with the primary eras of Islamic architecture, color and decorative patterns had a major role. Moreover, many buildings and monuments of this era may not have any architectural priority but considering their decoration and physical shape they are exceptionally beautiful. Therefore, the buildings of this city can be considered as a key source in analyzing and discussing the element of decoration in Islamic architecture. Palaces such as Ali Qapu, Hasht Behesht, Chehel Sotoon, and the major mosques such as Imam Mosque and Sheikh-Lotf-Allah Mosque are all examples of the application of ornamentation in Islamic architecture.
Armenians immigrated to Isfahan in the reign of Shah Abbas the Great, and in order to develop their material and spiritual life in the Safavid capital, they felt a necessity to maintain their cultural principles. After gaining permission from the Safavid court and considering the unrestrained policy of Shah Abbas, they were encouraged to construct a place of worship. Therefore, today many Armenian churches are remained from that time. Churches such as Vank Beit-Al Lahm, St. Maria, and St. Peter are examples. In the interior decoration of these churches, religious wall paintings and various plant and geometrical patterns is applied. These decorations are quite similar to Islamic architecture in the Safavid era, considering their patterns, colors, the combination of motifs and the way they appear. The architecture of this building is completely similar to other religious buildings of this era. The paintings of this church were performed by Armenian artists, moreover, in these paintings, Persian art and Armenian art are combined and an exquisite and fine art is shaped.
The main focus of this essay is the impact of Islamic architecture on the ornamentation of Isfahan's churches in the Safavid era and is organized according to the following aims:
Understanding the characteristics of Armenian architecture and Islamic architecture in the Safavid era.
Analyzing the degree and impact of Islamic architecture on the ornamentation of Isfahan's churches in the Safavid era.
Questions answered throughout the article
How did Islamic architecture influence the decoration of Armenian churches?
Which monuments of Isfahan can demonstrate this impact?
The compilation of subject matter and data used in this article is extracted from library and record materials, photos and available images and the conduction of the theme is descriptive, historical and analytical.
Keywords: Isfahan, Safavid Era, Islamic Erchitecture, Armenian Churches, Wall Paintings, Ornamentation
Dr. Mahnaz Shayestehfar
Associate Professor of Islamic Art, Department of Art and Architecture, Tarbiyat Modares University