Yazd Jameh Mosque is the grand, congregational mosque of Yazd city, within the Yazd Province of Iran. The 12th-century mosque is still in use today. It was first built under Ala’oddoleh Garshasb of the Al-e Bouyeh dynasty. The mosque was largely rebuilt between 1324 and 1365, and is one of the outstanding 14th century buildings of Iran.
According to the historians, the mosque was constructed in the site of the Sassanid fire temple and Ala’oddoleh Garshasb commenced building the charming mosque. The previous mosque was constructed by order of Ala’oddoleh Kalanjar in 6th century A.H., however the main construction of the present building was done by order of “Seyyed Rokn Al-din Mohammad QAZI”.
The mosque is a fine specimen of the Azari style of Persian architecture. The mosque is crowned by a pair of minarets, the highest in Iran, and the portal’s facade is decorated from top to bottom in dazzling tile work, predominantly blue in color.
A distinguishing feature of Iranian mosques is the emphasis on tall entry portals, called pishtaq. The Yazd Mosque is a particularly fine example, crowned with two lofty minarets for added effect. The portal is so massive that it nearly collapsed when it was being expanded to its current height in the 15th century, requiring a rather unwieldy buttress to be added to one of its sides.
Within is a long arcaded courtyard where, behind a deep-set south-east iwan, is a sanctuary chamber (shabestan). This chamber, under a squat tiled dome, is exquisitely decorated with faience mosaic: its tall faience Mihrab, dated 1365, is one of the finest of its kind in existence.
The elegant patterns of brick work and the priceless inscription of mosaic tiles bearing angular kufic all create a sense of beauty.
Most Iranian Jameh, or Friday mosques, feature a four-iwan plan with an open courtyard at the center (Jameh mosques are distinguished from regular masjid by their use as places of worship for the community each Friday). The mosque encloses a rectangular open court, measuring approximately 18 by 46 meters.
The court surrounded on all four sides by one-story arcades of pointed-arch vaults resting on massive square piers. The complex’s main portal iwan is located on the east side of the court; the domed chamber (12 by 12 meters) with the main iwan preceding it occupies the center of the southern side of the court. The iwan has galleries on the second level. These permit access to the arcades’ roofs, enabling circumnavigation of the complex. Two rectangular “winter” prayer halls flank the domed chamber and extend halfway along the western and eastern arcades’ walls. The area of the building which includes the domed chamber and the two winter halls measures 46 by 54 meters; the courtyard including the bays of arcades measures 27 by 54 meters.
A distinctive feature of the complex is the tall eastern portal iwan surmounted by two soaring minarets on each side. This portal iwan, which is a common architectural prototype of the Il Khanid period, is here given a high degree of monumentality by the verticality of the two tall minarets and the vertical orientation of the moldings’ lines. This portal iwan is immediately followed by a domed vestibule, which connects to the southern prayer hall and gives access to the mosque’s court from the east. The dome of the vestibule rests on eight quenches, from which ascend eight ribs that intersect at the top of the dome and form a smaller octagonal perforated nucleus, allowing light to infiltrate into the space. In the two “winter” prayer halls, the space is divided by the transverse arches into six bays. The width of the transverse arches varies, depends on the width of the piers that demarcate the sides of the domed chamber and the iwan. These prayer halls are illuminated by large high windows, positioned on white walls, contrasting with the polychromatic palette of the decoration of the domed chambe
The main prayer niche, the one which is located below the dome, is decorated with elegant mosaic tiles. On the two star-shaped inlaid tiles, the name of the builder and the time of construction of the prayer niche sparkle beautifully. The two towering minarets dating back to the Safavid era measure 52 meters in height and 6 meters in diameter. The mihrab is a half-octagonal niche in the qibla wall, fully decorated with a glazed tile mosaic revetment of floral motifs, predominantly in blue and white and surmounted by a muqarnas vault. The mihrab’s pointed arch is framed by a calligraphic inscription band in white thuluth script on a blue background. Above the dado of the domed chamber, hexagonal tiles in light blue geometrical patterns are formed from a multiplication and rotation of the word “Allah.”
Most of the decoration in the building was added under Muzaffarid rule, after they succeeded the Il Khanids. The variety of decorative techniques and forms of colored glazed tile mosaic work and (unglazed) carved terracotta, juxtaposed in different ways, articulates the richness and diversity of the decoration and the play of materials and colors and reflects the cumulative history of the mosque’s construction and reconstruction.