Geometrical analysis of architecture of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque to find the geometrical relations between its prayer hall and the entrance

Document Type : Research Article



The architecture of mosques plays a pivotal role in the Islamic art. It reflects the thoughts and beliefs of the architects who devoted their lives to achieving unity in structure. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, located in Isfahan, is a magnificent and highly splendid construction of Iranian–Islamic architecture prevalent in the Safavid era. The Mosque was built in Naghsh-e Jahan Square by the well-known Iranian architect of the time, Mohammad Reza Isfahani and on the order of Shah Abbas, the First. It is named after Sheikh Lotfollah Jabal Ameli, a great scholar of the Safavid era. Naghsh-e Jahan Square is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Unlike the traditional pattern of Iranian mosques, this building does not have a courtyard and a minaret. A feature of this mosque is its prayer hall’s 45 degree rotation to the axis of its entrance. The purpose of this is to adjust the direction of the entrance toward Qibla. The significance of this building lies in its architecture and beautiful tile work, which has significantly added to its value. Mosques, as places of worship, are the most appropriate form of architecture through which the concept of multiplicity in unity is realized. That is why mosques have always been the most enduring works of architecture during the Islamic era in Iran. In the architecture of Iranian mosques, geometrical tools have been properly utilized with regard to the condition of time and place. Accordingly, different mosques built in same era, though somehow similar, have their unique features. The accurate geometry of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque will have every researcher wonder over the splendor of its architectural beauties.  The analysis of many Iranian historical buildings from the geometrical point of view has proven that a thorough knowledge of proportions especially the Golden Section has been used widely in Iranian architecture and this is the basis of Iranian aesthetics. In many Iranian buildings, plans and vertical sections have been designed in frames of squares and triangles in which intersections determined all important fixed points such as width and height of doors, width, length and height of rooms and the location of inscriptions. Therefore, the dimensions of each component were associated to others by a certain proportion. As a result, the building was not a set of non-harmonic components, but was a harmonious combination of elements with appropriate relations between them, producing movement and calmness in space. A geometrical analysis of the architecture of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque reveals some of the principles which have been influential in the design of this splendid building. The Mosque's entrance on the side of Naghsh-e Jahan Square has been determined based on a specific geometry. The location of the entrance divides the side of the Square into two parts based on the specifics of the golden proportion. At the beginning of the entrance to the building and through a narrow corridor a 45 degree rotation to the left and within a short distance, a 90 degree rotation to the right has been designed. The purpose of this is to adjust the direction of the entrance to the prayer hall toward Qibla. This has caused the square-shaped prayer hall to deviate from the symmetrical axis of the entrance. Dome relocation and asymmetry are seen clearly in the building's facade. Ironically, this has not only caused any confusion but added to the beauty of the building and has made it a unique masterpiece. The Mosque’s positioning on the eastern side of Naqshe-Jahan Square, which is based on the Golden Section, and the movement of the prayer hall from the symmetrical axis of the entrance are the main focuses of this article. The research hypothesis is that the positioning of the prayer hall, with respect to its displacement from the symmetrical axis of the entrance of the building is linked to the position of the entrance on the side of the Square. In this article, a geometrical model is generated. Then, by applying the model to the plan of the Mosque, the geometrical and dimensional relations between the two above-mentioned spaces are identified.   Based on this, the rationale behind the formation of this masterpiece is revealed. The findings show the architect’s full knowledge of geometry and its practical application and emphasizes that the dimensions of the prayer hall was determined proportionate to the dimensions of the entrance and the positioning of this space to the entrance was determined in relation to the positioning of the entrance on the side of Naqshe-Jahan Square.  It is also revealed that the Golden Section and geometrical techniques of its construction have been used in this Mosque to create a balance between components of structure. The research method is analytical-descriptive and proceeds through the geometrical analysis of the building. At first, the plan of the Mosque and its positioning in Naqshe-Jahan Square are studied and then the hypothesis is proven through the analysis of the geometrical features of the Mosque.