The Imam Reza Shrine Complex was developed on the site of the eighth Imam's grave, in what was at the time of his death in 817 the small village of Sanabad. In the tenth century the town acquired the name Mashhad, 'Place of Martyrdom' (used for any burial place of a muslim martyr), and became the most sacred site in Persia.
Although the earliest dated structure bears an inscription from the early fifteenth century, historical references indicate buildings on the site prior to the Seljuk period, and a dome by the early thirteenth century.
Following periods of alternating destruction and reconstruction, including the sporadic interest of Seljuk and Il-Khan Sultans, the largest period of construction took place under the Timurids and Safavids. The site received substantial royal patronage from the son of Timur, Shah Rukh, and his wife Gawhar Shad and the Safavid Shahs Tahmasp, Abbas and Nader Shah.
Under the rule of the Islamic Revolution, the shrine has been expanded with new courts (Sahn-e Khomeini, Sahn-e Jumhuriyet Islamiye), a library and an Islamic university. This expansion in effect reverses the 'beautification' project of Pahlavi Shahs Riza and Muhammed Riza, in which all structures adjacent to the shrine complex were cleared to form a large green lawn and circular boulevard, isolating the shrine from its urban context.
The tomb chamber is located underneath a golden dome, with elements dating back to the twelfth century. The chamber is decorated with a tilework dado dating from 612/1215, above which the wall surfaces and a muqarnas dome were executed in mirror work in the nineteenth century. Shah Tahmasp gold-plated the tomb dome, which was previously decorated with tile. The gold of the dome was lost to Ozbeg raiders and subsequently replaced by Shah Abbas I during his renovation project begun in 1601.
Various other chambers surround the tomb, including the Dar al-Siyada and Dar al-Huffaz, both commissioned by Gawhar Shad. These two chambers provide transition between the tomb chamber and her congregational mosque, situated on the southwest side of the complex.
This historic architectural complex accompanies unique and distinctive ethics and rituals to be known as an inseparable heritage of the complex and the complicated culture of its wider setting. In fact, the genuine values of the heritage associates not only with its magnificent architecture and structural system but also with all the rituals, all together implicating the unique spiritual spirit of Imam Reza.
Dusting is one of the oldest rituals of Astane-e Qods with 500 years of constant continuation which on the event of specific occasions performs with particular formalities. As well as playing Naqareh (a specific wind instrument) in various events and times. Of other rituals, the sweeping, Waqf, granting free food and services to assist others and the mankind, various types of citing, etc. can be mentioned.
In a general perspective, the function, structure, decorative elements, facades and surfaces of the buildings all in all symbolize the ideology, the through religious unification and the evolution of the complex. This holy shrine is not just a shrine but, in a larger scale, is an institution and an identity formed and developed based on the religious ideology and believes. The holy complex comprises of tens of valuable architectural heritages around the central holy shrine which are all with political and social importance.
Formation of Mashahd, as a city and its development is indebted to creation of the holy shrine. Thus the complex becomes the religious, political, social and also artistic center for Mashhad. It also, immensely, influence the economic status of the city. The first built structure in the complex, is the holy shrine under which the tomb of Imam Reza is located. This architectural heritage, due to its long lifespan, glorious decorative elements such as tiles, mirror decorations, gilded dome, stone-works, plaster-works, etc. incorporate sublime tangible and intangible values.
The city of Mashad is situated 909 km. from Tehran in a plain between the two mountain ranges of Binalood and Hezar Masjed. Mashad enjoys a temperate, mountainous climate.
In the year 202 AH, after the martyrdom of Imam Reza (AS) in a place around Toos called Sanabad which ...
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