Gowharshad mosque is one of the most ancient and glorious monuments of the Timurid era constructed in the ninth century Lunar Hijri. This work of art is the result of Iranian artists and architects’ brilliant artistry. Professor “Opham”, one of the well-known orientalists, referred to the historical mosque of Gowharshad as the eighth most beautiful monument in the world.
This historical monument is located in the southern extreme of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). It is attached to Dar al-Siyadah and Dar al-Huffaz porches. This mosque was built by the order of Lady Gowharshad, who was the daughter of Amir Ghiyath al-din Tarkhan(one of the Joghtaee kings) and Shahrokh’s (a Timurid King) wife during the Timurid era in 821 Lunar Hijri. To build this mosque, she hired Qavam al-Din Shirazi, a very well-known Iranian architect at the time. This monument was built by using Timurid architectural style. The construction of this mosque lasted for about twelve years.
According to history, after finishing the construction of the mosque, Lady Gowharshad invited the leaders of the Islamic countries to participate in the inauguration of Gowharshad Mosque. Shahrokh, Gowharshad’s husband, came from Harat to Mashhad to take part in the ceremony and dedicated three thousand ounces of gold to the Holy Burial Chamber.
The construction date of Gowharshad Mosque can be seen in three places of the southern portico (Maqsureh portico). One of them is at the end of the Bisonqori inscription on the left side of Maqsureh portico; the second is in the inscription on the right side of the portico written in Thulth calligraphy; the third is inside the eastern column of the portico. The name of the architect is written on the left side of the column at the southern portico of the mosque (Maqsureh portico), under the Bisonqori inscription.
The magnificent building of the mosque was built with oriental architectural techniques. The four-portico monument was built with ninth-century bricks and other construction materials. This monument is one of the architectural masterpieces of the world. The Dome-shaped roof of the mosque and its minarets along with the inscriptions and specific decorations as well as the use of Muqqarnas style and figures and lines on the plaster wall and excellent Muarraq work of the Timurid era, display the unique sights of Iranian Art at the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). This ancient monument is a perfect example of Iranian Art consisting of all the traditional architectural features. With an area of 500 meters square, 37 meters length and 25.5 meters height,the southern portico of the mosque named Maqsureh portico is one of the most magnificent porticos. The sides of the mosque are decorated with exquisite Muarraq tiles and there are names of Allah and verses of the Holy Qur’an and narratives, some of which are related to the mosque, on all of its walls and rooms.
On the front of Maqsureh portico, there is an inscription written by Bisonghor Mirza, Gowharshad’s son, who was one of the best Thulth calligraphers during the Timurid dynasty. The date of construction can also be seen on the tiles of this inscription.Mihrab (prayer niches) is made of solidified marble stone with decorations and an inscription is visible among its Muqarnass that marks the art of that age.
Saheb al-Zaman tribune, placed in the corner of Maqsureh portico, is very important in terms of its age. This ancient tribune was built from walnut and pear wood. Master Muhammad Najjar Khurasani (a well-known wood carver during Fath Ali Shah Qajar’s rule) performed all of the woodcarving on the tribune without using any nails. This tribune is 7.5 meters high and it consists of fourteen stairs. Saheb al-zaman tribune was repaired by Ustad Heydar Niknam Golpayegani in 1325 Solar Hijri.
The marvellous dome upon Maqsureh portico, has added to the magnificence of this monument. The height of this dome is 41 meters and the empty space between the two covers of the dome is 10 meters. Its external surface was decorated with glazed bricks and one inscription written by Kufi calligraphy. Two minarets were built on both sides of this portico each being 43 meters high from the base of the mosque. Several inscriptions can also be found there. Gowharshad mosque has a 2800 meter-square courtyard and its infrastructure is 9410 meters square.
The building of the mosque consists of eight big porticos and seven Shabestans.The area beneath the dome which is behind Maqsureh portico along with single-storey Shabestans, relates different parts of the mosque to each other. The eastern and western porticos of Gowharshad Mosque are respectively called E’tekaf and Sheikh Bahaee portico. The northern portico which is located across from Maqsureh portico is called Dar al-Siyadah portico.
Lady Gowharshad’s name was written on the northern portico of the mosque (Dar al-Siyadah portico) using Thulth calligraphy on yellow Muarraq tiles. This portico is decorated with beautiful Muarraq work. Above the entrance to Dar al-Siyadahportico, there is a silver window belonging to the Qajar era. With unique Muarraq works and inscriptions written in Thulth calligraphy, the two eastern and western courtyards of Gowharshad mosque attach the mosque to Imam Khomeini portcio and Sheikh Baha al-din sanctuary.
Over the years, this mosque has been damaged several times by natural causes and human neglect; for instance, in the earthquake of 1084 lunar hijri, Maqsureh portico was damaged and later repaired. Other up-keepings of the mosque were in 1330 Lunar Hijri after the Russian bombardment which inflicted serious damages to the dome and courtyards of the mosque. The dome, Maqsureh portico and the eastern and western courtyards of the mosque were substantially repaired in 1339 Lunar Hijri.