Iranian Heritage in Danger (V): Soltaniyeh

This post intend to focus on Soltaniyeh . Soltaniyeh is one of the outstanding examples of the achievements of Persian architecture and a key monument in the development of its Islamic architecture. The Soltaniyeh Dome monument is located 40 km. far from Zanjan. This historic building was built during Ilxani Dynasty, which was founded by the Mongols in about 10 years (The mausoleum of Oljaytu was constructed in 1302–12). The plateau in which this structure was laid is about 2000 m above the sea level. The octagonal building is crowned with about 50 m tall dome covered in turquoise-blue faience and surrounded by eight slender minarets. It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in not only Iran but also in the world. Its interior decoration is also outstanding and scholars.

The historical monument of the Mausoleum of Oljaytu at Soltaniyeh is authentic in terms of its form and design, materials and substance, and location and setting. Although this building had continuously encountered several natural and human made disasters, but still gloriously and steady in plain of Soltaniyeh. In this huge and glorious structure, considering the Iwans in every side, as a rule eight pillars had been created that would transfer the load uniformly to the ground. These pillars are completely monolithic and made from brick. The investigation was performed on two out of eight pillars, one in north and next to extension mosque and other in east and adjacent to old mosque.

The secret of stability in this brick building during past centuries is laid in its structure and materials used for building. By the way, lately there has been a great deal of heated discussion regarding carelessness about of its restoring and maintaining.

Some problems listed as below:

  1. With respect to importance of the monument of Soltaniyeh Dome and its specific historical and structural features, it could be stated that all damages and restorations are considered as historical event and they must be documented in a perfect and most accurate manner. In this perspective, the crack of southern vault of Soltaniyeh Dome from depth and structure points of view, is regarded as an important damage for the whole building and it may considered a good example for significant pattern of force movement and recognition of damaging factors.
  2. The second problem is carelessness in restoring in recent years by low quality materials with heavier than original ones.
  3. Raining, snowy weather and the increase of moisture has really threatened for the brick and materials which had been used in Soltaniyeh. Also higher speed of wind in this area can cause erosion and other irreversible effect on mentioned site.
  4. Additionally, sometimes tourists have irreparable impact on sites, which come from their ignorance. They damage sites by engraving on stones, brick and destroying some parts of structure. 
  5. Lack of human resources in maintaining is another problem because of lack of adjusting budget by government.

The main recommendation can be investigating the structure of Soltaniyeh dome and also finding a suitable way for restoring vault cracks and other damages.

It is strongly believed that Particular world attention should be paid on conserving world heritage sites, specially these kinds of cases because of their particular structures. This case is just one in the world. Using new protective materials (such as Nano) to cover and conserve brick and structures against the moisture, wind and natural phenomena would be useful. In addition, architectural measures to tiling, soil and foundation reinforcing should be needed. Increasing knowledge of tourist could be helpful way to prevent damaged which come from tourists. All in all, conserving historical and natural sites should be one area of government's priority of the countries all around the world. In this case, this belief is partly right that it is immoral that individual shrink responsibility and try to pass all on government. Government and citizens should be jointly responsible.

Iranian Heritage in Danger is a post series by UCM doctoral student Ghazal Nouri.


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