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Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil

Built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century, this place of spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition uses Iranian traditional architectural forms to maximize use of available space to accommodate a variety of functions (including a library, a mosque, a school, mausolea, a cistern, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery, and some offices). It incorporates a route to reach the shrine of the Sheikh divided into seven segments, which mirror the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates, which represent the eight attitudes of Sufism. The ensemble includes well-preserved and richly ornamented facades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artefacts. It constitutes a rare ensemble of elements of medieval Islamic architecture.

Brief synthesis

Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble was built as a small microcosmic city with bazaars, public baths, squares, religious buildings, houses, and offices. It was the largest and most complete khānegāh and the most prominent Sufi shrine since it also hosts the tomb of the founder of the Safavid Dynasty. For these reasons, it has evolved into a display of sacred works of art and architecture from the 14th to the 18th century and a centre of Sufi religious pilgrimage.

The Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil is of Outstanding Universal Value as an artistic and architectural masterpiece and an outstanding representation of the fundamental principles of Sufism. Ilkhanid and Timurid architectural languages, influenced by Sufi philosophy, have created new spatial forms and decorative patterns. The layout of the ensemble became a prototype for innovative architectural expressions and a reference for other khānegāhs. As the shrine of a prominent Sufi master, who also was the founder of the Safavid Dynasty, the property has remained sacred in Iran up to the present day.

Criterion (i): The conception of the entire ensemble layout, the proportions of the internal and external spaces and of the buildings, their design and refined decoration, together with the climax created by the sequenced path to Sheikh Safi al-Din’s shrine, all combined, have concurred to create a unique complex in which aesthetics and spirituality are in a harmonious dialogue.

Criterion (ii): The architectural spaces and features of the nominated property have integrated influences of the Ilkhānid and Timurid periods with the religious message of Sufism and the taste for exquisite ornamentation and interior spaciousness, thus giving rise to fresh architectural and artistic forms.

Criterion (iv): The Sheikh Safi al-Din ensemble is a prototype and an outstanding example of a 16th century religious complex, combined with social, charitable, cultural, and educational functions, which contains all the significant elements that since came to characterize Safavid architecture and became a prototype for other khānegāh and shrines.

Ministry of foreign affairs,
Islamic Republic of IRAN,
All Rights Reserved - 2014