Abbasi Hotel is a famous hotel in Isfahan located in the old texture of the city. The building of this hotel was actually a caravanserai built 300 years ago by the mother of the last Safavid King, Sultan Husayn (1668-1726), and gifted to the Chahar Bagh seminary as source of income for the school. The caravanserai was still in use in the Qajar era (1772–1834) but gradually fell into ruin. French archaeologist, architect and historian André Godard (1881-1965) undertook the renovation of this hotel in the 1950s and in 1966 the caravanserai was officially inaugurated as a hotel. Like other caravanserais, Abbasi caravanserai had a large square courtyard. There is an iwan on each corner of the yard where white-colored rooms are lined in two stories. The courtyard was turned into a Persian garden following the renovation of the structure. Today, this garden is lined with waterways, tall trees and heavenly scented flowers. The courtyard has a rectangular pool in front of the building and several smaller turquoise fountains scattered around the grounds. The view of this garden is spectacular at night when the light fixtures around the pool are turned on. Guests of the hotel can sit in this garden to enjoy meals and have Persian tea. A large dome covered in turquoise tiles is raised above the hotel which can be seen from some of the rooms. The hotel currently has 225 rooms, suites and apartments each with unique and captivating decorations designed to bring to mind the interior of Safavid (1501-1722) and Qajar palaces and mansions. The hotel is considered a treasure trove of Persian arts for the finesse of its wall paintings, mirrorwork, moqarnas arches, cutout stucco decorations, colored glass and lattice doors and windows. The ceilings of the hotel’s lobby and restaurants are covered in Persian miniature-style paintings featuring arabesque and flower motifs. The hotel has three restaurants two of which have been named after magnificent Safavid creations namely Chehel Sotoun and Ali Qapu Hall and one which has been named after the Mirror Hall common in Qajar era Palaces and mansions. The walls of the Chehel Sotoun and Ali Qapu dining halls have Persian miniature paintings resembling the works of Safavid era artists. The 1974 movie ‘And Then There Were None,’ a screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, was filmed in Abbasi Hotel. Today, this beautiful hotel is a popular destination for those visiting the City of Turquoise Domes.
Ali Qapu (Imperial Gate) Palace
Ali Qapu (Imperial Gate) Palace is a six-story monument on the western side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square where the Safavid Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) spent most of his time, entertained visitors and foreign emissaries and used the upper galleries to watch polo games and military parades. Ali Qapu is actually a pavilion and the entrance to the royal quarters, which stretched from Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the Chahar Bagh Boulevard. Some say the palace’s name is actually Ali’s Gate’ because when Shah Abbas I replaced the door of the Imam Ali (PBUH) (599-661) shrine in Najaf with a new silver one, he brought back its old door and installed it in Ali Qapu Palace. According to some accounts, the original structure was a simple Timurid (1370–1507) one which was expanded by Shah Abbas I. It is said that after celebrating his first Nowruz (Persian New Year) in the palace in 1597, Shah Abbas decided to make it his permanent residence and had the palace modified accordingly. Master miniature painter Reza Abbasi (1565-1635) was commissioned to decorate the interior of the building. The flower, bird, and animal motifs adorning the walls and ceilings of Ali Qapu are the work of this Safavid era painter and his apprentices. When the Safavid monarch built Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque, a tunnel was built under Naqsh-e Jahan Square to connect Ali Qapu Palace and the private royal mosque, allowing the Safavid royal to avoid a public walk across the square to reach the mosque. Shah Abbas’ successors made further additions to Ali Qapu in five stages. The palace now has six stories. However, some consider the roof of the palace, which offers a panoramic view of the city, as its seventh story. Administrative offices were located on the first floor of Ali Qapu. The third floor of the palace has a hall with 18 columns covered in mirrorwork and a ceiling embellished with delicate paintings. The palace boasts an acoustic music room on its sixth floor where royal reception and banquets were held and various ensembles performed for the Safavid king. The ceiling of the music room has cut out stucco decorations of vases and goblets which served to enhance the sound of music played for the King. With a height of 48 meters, Ali Qapu Palace was once the tallest building in Isfahan and has been registered along with Naqsh-e Jahan Square as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyt Lahm or Bethlehem Church
Beyt Lahm or Bethlehem Church is a 17th century church built by an Armenian merchant named Khaje Petros in the Jolfa quarter of Isfahan. This church has the biggest dome among the churches of Isfahan. The church is famous for the exquisite paintings covering its walls which depict biblical scenes.
Chahar Bagh Boulevard
Chahar Bagh (Four Gardens) is an avenue connecting the southern and northern part of Isfahan city. Legend has it that the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) was forced to purchase four gardens in order to construct this street in 1591. It is more likely, however, that the avenue was named after the four magnificent gardens on either side of it. A stream of water once flowed in the middle of this avenue, which was flanked by trees and flowerbeds.
Chahar Bagh School
Chahar Bagh School is a seminary built by the last Safavid King, Sultan Hossein (1668-1726), along the Chahar Bagh Boulevard. To finance the school, a large caravansary was built nearby, which is known today as Abbasi Hotel. The walls and dome of this school are covered in yellow bricks. The variety of tiles used in this school has caused some to consider it as a museum of Isfahan tilework.
Chehel Sotoun (40 columns) Pavilion in Isfahan was built by Safavid monarch Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) inside a large garden in a 67,000-square-meter area. Shah Abbas II (1632-1666) completed the pavilion, made further additions to it and commissioned its elaborate exterior and interior decorations. Like the palaces of Persepolis, the Chehel Sotoun Pavilion stands on a platform above the ground. This pavilion is a combination of Persian, Chinese and Western architecture and is one of the first monuments in which extensive mirrorwork, wall paintings, wooden columns with moqarnas column heads were used. All walls in this pavilion were once covered in full-length mirrors and doors and windows had monabbat (wood carving and inlaid work) and khatam (marquetry) decorations. Once used as a reception hall for foreign emissaries, the pavilion has a main terrace that opens to the garden. This terrace is 3 meters long and 17 meters wide and has 20 columns made of plane and pine wood. These columns were originally adorned with mirrorwork and colored wooden decorations. There is a rectangular pool, which is 110 meters long and 16 meters wide, with water fountains in front of the terrace. There were once four stone lion fountains which poured water into the central pool from each corner. The terrace columns are doubled when reflected in the pool creating the illusion of 40 columns, which the pavilion has been named after. The main hall of the pavilion, where foreign guests were entertained contains frescoes depicting specific historical scenes, military exploits and court life. There are Persian miniature paintings below these frescos. Some of the scenes depicted in these frescos include the reception of Mughal Emperor Humayun (1508-1556) by Tahmasp I (1514-1576), the battle of Shah Ismail I (1487-1524) and Ottoman Selim I (1465-1520) at Chaldoran, Shah Abbas I receiving Vali Muhammad Khan (reign 1605–1611) from the Khanate of Bukhara, Shah Abbas II receiving Nadir Muhammad Khan (reign 1642–1645) from the Khanate of Bukhara, the Battle of Karnal and the victory of Nader Shah Afshar (1688-1747) over Muhammad Shah Rangeela (1702-1748), and the battle and victory of Shah Ismail I over Muhammad Shaybani Khan (1451-1510). The scenes of Karnal and Chaldoran are believed to have been added to the building in the Qajar era (1785 -1925). The works of Dutch painters such as Philips Angel van Leiden (1618-1664) can be seen in parts of the palace. There was once a precious Quran above the main entrance of the pavilion, which ensured anyone passing from under the entrance would be blessed by the Holy Book and travel safely. The Quran has since been moved to the museum inside the palace.
Hakim Mosque is situated at the end of Bazaar-e-Rang Razan (Painter and Dyer's Market) in Isfahan's Bazaar. This glorious mosque, which was built on the ruins of an older structure during the reign of the Safavid Shah Abbas II (1632-1666), has the four-iwan style of architecture. The mosque has various Quranic and poem inscriptions in different Persian calligraphy hands.
Hasht Behesht Palace
Hasht Behesht Palace or Eight Paradises is the only remaining structure built in the gardens along the historic Chahar Bagh avenue. With its beautiful arches and detailed decorations, this two-story palace was considered a prime example of Safavid architecture. Some of the rooms on the second floor of this palace have fountains and others have fireplaces. The ceilings of all spaces in this palace are covered in exquisite tiles.
Imam (Shah) Mosque
On the south side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square sits the 17th century Imam (Shah) Mosque, which was built during the reign of Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (1571-1629). The mosque, which is also known as Jame Abbasi Mosque and Royal Mosque, was intended to replace the Jame Mosque of Isfahan as the venue for the Friday Prayers. Construction of the mosque began in 1612 in the 24th year of Shah Abbas’ reign. Iranian craftsmen invented the seven-color tile, which has a quicker and more cost-effective creation process, to use in the decoration of Imam (Shah) Mosque. It is said that 18 million bricks and 475,000 tiles were used in this mosque. The 27- meter-high entrance of the mosque, which opens to Naqsh-e Jahan Square, is bound by two 42-meter-high minarets and has multi-color tilework with flower and bird motifs as well as mo’arraq tilework. There is a white on Persian blue Thuluth inscription above the entrance, which is the work 17th century master calligrapher Ali Reza Abbasi. The main door of the mosque is made of gold and silver and has a Nastaleeq inscription with eight verses of poetry. Renowned polymath Sheikh Baha’i (1547- 1621) designed this mosque to have the biggest dome in the city, to be visible from any point in the square and to have a winter mosque and two religious schools on either side. The double-shell dome of the mosque sits on an octagonal dome chamber and is considered the biggest and most finely-decorated domes of the 17th century. This dome is 52 meters high and has been designed to reflect sound. The two shells of the dome are 16 meters apart. The interior of the dome has been decorated with multicolor tiles and gives viewers a sense of spiritual transcendence. The Mihrab (prayer niche) of the mosque is considered one of the most beautiful prayer chambers in all of Isfahan and has extensive blue tilework. In the main courtyard of the mosque an indicator stone has been placed by Sheikh Baha’i that can determine the exact time for noon prayers on every day of the year. This mosque, which was designed so that travelers on the Silk Road could see its turquoise dome glittering like a gem from miles away, is also depicted on the back of the 20,000 rials banknote. The Mosque has been registered along with Naqsh-e Jahan Square as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Imamzadeh Haroun-e-Velayat is a 16th century shrine which was built during the reign of Shah Esmail I (1487-1524) and later expanded by his successors. The mausoleum is believed to have belonged to Haroun, one of the sons of the second Shia Imam Hasan ibn Ali (625-670). The façade of this shrine complex is unique because of its magnificent Thuluth inscriptions on white moarraq over a Persian blue background. The vivid tilework in this shrine has given Haroun-e-Velayat great religious significance.
Imamzadeh Shah Zeyd
Imamzadeh Shah Zeyd is an early Safavid era mausoleum built in memory of one of the sons of the second Shia Imam, Hassan ibn Ali (625-670). Shah Zeyd is well known for its religious wall paintings, particularly its depiction of the scenes from the battle of Karbala. The mausoleum is also notable for its architecture, tilework and unique dome on which Quranic verses have been written in black and turquoise on a brick background.
Bazaars are one of the most important and central elements in every Iranian city. After mosques, these markets were considered the heart of each neighborhood as they were where people went to buy and sell goods, interact with one another and learn about the latest news and developments in the realm from the town criers walking around their passages to make public announcements. Most major cities had a main bazaar and each neighborhood had its own special, smaller bazaar. These bazaars often consisted of a long vaulted street with shops on either side. One of the most magnificent bazaars of Iran and one of the oldest and largest in the Middle East is the 17th century Isfahan Bazaar. Located in the northern part of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square this two-kilometer vaulted street links the old and new texture of the city by connecting the main entrance called Qeisarieh with the city’s Jame Mosque. Precious textiles, gems, carpets and different goods were sold and traded in this large bazaar, which was also known as the Imperial Bazaar. Poet, philosopher and traveler Naser Khosrow (1004 – 1088 CE) in his Safarnama (Travel Book) described this bazaar as a place where 200 Saraf (money changers) worked. Above the portal of Qeisarieh Bazaar is a tribune that once accommodated musicians giving public concerts. There are two platforms on either side of the entrance, where hundreds of years ago jewelers and goldsmiths sat to sell their merchandise. Qeisarieh has been built in two stories, the top was used for administrative affairs and the first story was where shops were lined up and merchants worked. Qeisarieh includes the six smaller Harounieh, Oryan, Nimavard Golshan, Mokhles, Samovarmakers and Maqsoud Beik bazaars. The bazaar also includes several mosques namely Dualfaghar, Now and Shisheh where merchants from different guilds performed daily prayers, a number of schools such as Kaseh Garan, Harounieh, Nimavard and Mula Abdollah, and sub-bazaars such as Golshan, Jarchi, and Fakhr. This bazaar also has scores of caravanserais, where Silk Road travelers would stop along the way to rest. There are shops in this bazaar which have been in business and sold the same goods for over 400 years. Today, this bazaar is the largest handicraft market in Isfahan and offers a variety of goods including Persian carpets, handmade silver jewelry and spices among other commodities. The bazaar has been registered along with Naqsh-e Jahan Square as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Isfahan Fire Temple
The Isfahan Fire Temple also known as Atashgah is a Sassanid-era structure, which stands on a mound of the same name along with the remains of several other buildings. Several buildings in this cluster have a classic char taq "four arch" design, which was a characteristic of fire temples of the time, and others have been suggested housed priests and pilgrims. There is a tower-like circular building on the top of the mound. Locals have given this structure the name Burj-e Gurban (Tower of Sacrifice) and it is believed to have been a watchtower.
Jame Mosque of Isfahan
One of the oldest and most important religious structures of Iran, the Jame Mosque of Isfahan is magnificent example of the evolution of mosque architecture as well as the development of Islamic arts over twelve centuries. The Jame Mosque is the embodiment of the aesthetic tastes of Persian rulers from the 8th through the 20th centuries. The Isfahan Bazaar is located next to this mosque and the Qeisarieh entrance connects it to Naqsh-e Jahan Square. This enormous mosque located in the old texture of Isfahan city, was not just a place for worship, as it facilitated public mobility and trade activity with its many entrances that led to a network of passageways on all sides. Archeological findings suggest that the mosque was built over the ruins of a Sassanid (226-651 CE) Fire Temple during the Buyid era (934 - 1062). After the Seljuq conquest (1038-1118) when Isfahan became the capital of the new empire, much importance was placed on embellishing the city’s Jame Mosque. When a fire damaged the mosque, a new four-iwan plan was given to the mosque during reconstruction efforts, making it the first Islamic building to adapt the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. This 8th century mosque, which has influenced mosque construction throughout Asia, has gone through several remodelings. Additions and alterations were made to the Jame Mosque during the Ilkhanid (1256–1335), Timurid (1370–1507), Safavid (1501-1736), and Qajar (1785–1925) eras. Unlike its simple brick exterior, the interior of the mosque has intricate stucco reliefs as well as lavish brickwork, tilework, moqarnas and mo’arraq decorations. In the Safavid era, Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) had polymath Sheikh Baha’i (1547- 1621) design the Imam (Shah) Mosque or Jame Abbasi Mosque in Naqsh-e Jahan Square to replace this mosque as the new venue for the Friday Prayers. The original Mihrab (prayer niche) of the Jame Mosque has inscription bands dating mainly from the time of Shah Tahmasp (1514-1576) and Shah Abbas II (1632- 1666). These inscriptions catalogue renovation and decoration efforts, and praise the 12 Shia Imams. There are also Quranic inscriptions praising the power of God. The Oljaytu Mihrab in the northwestern part of the mosque, which dates back to 1310, was an addition made by this Ilkhanid ruler. This Mihrab is notable for its delicate stucco reliefs featuring 3D inscriptions, floral motifs and geometric shapes. The Jame Mosque of Isfahan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the finest bridges in Isfahan, the Khaju Bridge is noted for its beautiful architecture and tilework. Built upon the order of the Safavid king Shah Abbas II (1632-1666), the bridge, which also functioned as a weir and regulated the flow of the river, has 24 arches and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It is said that quicklime and egg whites were used as mortar in the construction of this bridge. There are octagonal pavilions in the center of the bridge where nobles once sat to watch the river and swimming matches.
Menar Jonban or the Swinging Minarets are each nine meters wide and 17 meters high. These minarets were added to the mausoleum of 14th century mystic Amu Abdoullah Soqlabi. The main attraction of these minarets is that when one is shaken the other begins to swing and the vibrations can be felt throughout the structure. The minarets were designed by polymath Sheikh Baha’i (1547- 1621).
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, is a masterpiece of Islamic and Iranian architecture, which sits at the heart of Isfahan city in an area of 89,600 square meters. This royal square, which literally means ‘Exemplar of the World,’ was designed by the polymath Sheikh Baha’i (1547- 1621) upon the order of the founder of the Safavid Dynasty, Shah Abbas I (1571-1629). The square is surrounded by Isfahan Bazaar or Qeisarieh in the north, Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque in the east, Imam Mosque in the south and Ali Qapu Palace in the west. The first of the four monuments dominating Naqsh-e Jahan Square is Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque which was built as the private mosque of the royal family and court over a period of 18 years. Unlike other mosques in Iran, Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque has no courtyard or minarets. Despite its simple architecture, the finest materials were used in the construction of the mosque and prominent artists like calligrapher Ali Reza Abbasi were commissioned to create its complex interior and exterior decorations. This mosque has a famous underdome which has inspired the creation of beautiful Persian carpets and Iranian squares. Imam (Shah) Mosque, also known as Jame Abbasi Mosque or Royal Mosque, was built to replace the Jame Mosque of Isfahan as the venue for the Friday Prayers. The dome of this mosque was designed by Sheikh Baha’i so that travelers on the Silk Road could see it glittering like a turquoise gem from miles away. Ali Qapu (Imperial Gate) Palace is actually a six-story pavilion, which was the entrance to the Safavid royal quarters. Shah Abbas I spent most of his time in this palace, entertained visitors and foreign emissaries there and used the upper galleries to watch polo games, military parades and to host lavish banquets. Isfahan Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest bazaars in the Middle East. This two-kilometer vaulted street connects the main entrance known as Qeisarieh with the city’s Jame Mosque. Above the portal of Qeisarieh Bazaar is a tribune that once accommodated musicians giving public concerts. The magnificent multi-purpose Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which served as a marketplace, polo field, place for social meetings, concert grounds and a festival park, is depicted on the back of the Iranian 20,000 Rial banknote. Naqsh-e Jahan Square has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Saint George Church
Saint George Church or Gevork's church in Jolfa was built in the Safavid era. The foundation stones of this church, which was constructed in 1611, were taken from Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia upon the order of the Safavid rule Shah Abbas I (1571-1629). Because of these stones, Saint George Church is a sacred pilgrimage site for Armenians. The building of this rectangular-shaped church incorporates elements of Armenian and Iranian architecture. There is a beautiful piece of tilework depicting the Adoration of the Magi above the entrance of the church which was placed there in 1719. The wooden cross which once hung above the alter of the church has been moved to the Vank Museum due to its historical importance.
Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque
The first of the four monuments dominating Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque was built between 1601 and 1619 for the private use of the royal family during the reign of the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (1571-1629). The mosque was named after Sheikh Lutfollah, a Lebanese cleric from Jabal Amel, who was respected by Shah Abbas I and by some accounts was his father-in-law. It is said that the Safavid king designed this mosque so that Sheikh Lutfollah would have a place to lead prayers and teach classes. Located directly across from Ali Qapu Palace, a tunnel was built under Naqsh-e Jahan Square to connect the Palace and Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque and allow the Safavid royal to avoid walking across the square to reach the mosque. Despite its simple architecture, the finest materials were used in the construction of the mosque and the best artists were commissioned to create its complex interior and exterior decorations. Unlike other mosques in Iran, Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque has no courtyard or minarets. There is a Thuluth inscription above the entrance of the mosque by the 17th century master calligrapher Ali Reza Abbasi. The dome of the mosque is lavishly covered in tiles on both sides and sits on a square dome chamber. The exterior of the dome has delicate cream and turquoise colored arabesque designs that end in a turquoise star. The interior of the dome has a network of lemon-shaped compartments that decrease in size as they go towards its center. These patterns have created the illusion that a peacock’s tail, whose body is the sunrays coming in from the hole in the ceiling, has been painted inside the dome. Inspired by mystic philosopher Suhrawardi's (1155-1191) unity of existence theory, the decorations of the interior of the dome have inspired the design of Ardabil rugs, the ‘Carpet of Wonders,’ which is the world’s biggest carpet, and the Azadi Square in Tehran. Lighting for the mosque was provided by lattice windows surrounding the base of the dome. The base of the dome has Persian blue tilework with flower motifs and a mo’arraq tile inscription containing a few small passages from the Quran. The Mihrab (prayer niche) of the mosque has Persian blue, turquoise and yellow moqarnas and mo’arraq tiles. Inscriptions on these tiles include poems, Quranic verses, the names of the Shia Imams and sayings by the Prophet of Islam and the Shia Imams. Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
St. Mary and Hakop Church Complex
St. Mary Church is the second oldest church in Isfahan located directly across from Bethlehem Church. This church has been built around Hakop Church, which is considered the oldest church in Isfahan. In 1606, Armenian immigrants who fled from Julfa in Nakhchivan, now an exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the Ottoman massacre of the early 1600s, settled on the southern bank of Zayandeh River. One of the first things these immigrants did was to build places of worship in their new home in the New Jolfa quarter. In 1613, the Armenians of Jolfa began the construction of this St. Mary Church. This rectangular Safavid era church has domed halls, a chief characteristic of Armenian architecture. The main dome of this church has four lightwells resting on wide pillars, which divide it into three sections. The altar of St. Mary Church is located in the east and is flanked by two chambers. Brick and mud brick are the main material used in the construction of this church. Plaster has been used on the walls of the church which are decorated with paintings featuring biblical scenes. The church also has two 300-year-old Venetian oil paintings hanging in its chapel. St. Mary Church has a terrace with 20 pillars on three sides. These pillars have been adorned with colorful, glazed tiles. A bell tower was erected in the church in 1848. There is a small chapel named Stepanos to the south of St. Mary Church. As this church has been named after the Virgin Mary, it has always been popular among the women of Jolfa who have for centuries come to it for prayers every Wednesday. On the Wednesday before Easter, it is the custom of the women of Jolfa to walk barefoot to this church. In the northern part of St. Mary Church, there is another smaller church called Hakop, which was built in 1607 and is considered to be the oldest Christian place of worship in Isfahan. This church was shaped like a crucifix but lost one of its arms in 1843. The church has three domes with the middle one being the largest of the three. The church is made of mud brick and has a simple exterior. The walls of this modest church are covered in plaster. Hakop Church has very simple tilework decorations. There are two Armenian inscriptions dating back to 1607 above its entrance. St. Mary and Hakop Church Complex are registered National Heritage Sites.
Takht-e Foulad is an 800-year-old historical cemetery in Isfahan. During the Safavid era only prominent figures and authorities were buried there but the cemetery later became a public graveyard. The cemetery is the eternal resting place of countless constitutional revolution Bakhtiari and Qajar figures as well as poets, philosophers, religious scholars, satirists, calligraphers and mystics. Two of the famous Iranian women interred in the cemetery are Commander Maryam Bakhtiari and 20th century jurisprudent and theologian Lady Amin. Takht-e Foulad is a National Heritage Site.
The biggest of the churches of Isfahan, Vank Cathedral (Holy Savior Cathedral) was built by Armenians, who fled the Ottoman massacre of the early 1600s and found a new home in the city’s Jolfa quarter on the southern bank of Zayandeh River. About 150,000 Armenians fled from Julfa in Nakhchivan, now an exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and settled in Isfahan in 1606, where Safavid monarch Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) gave them refuge and named their new home New Jolfa. One of the first buildings constructed by Armenian immigrants in New Jolfa was Vank Cathedral. The construction of this cathedral began in 1606 and it was completed in 1664. With its domed sanctuary, Vank Cathedral incorporates elements of 17th-century Safavid and Islamic architecture. The interior of the cathedral is covered in fine oil paintings inspired by the works of Italian artists, gilded carvings, rich tilework and floral motifs in the style of Persian miniature paintings. The Cathedral also includes stones from the demolished churches of Julfa in Nakhchivan. One of the most outstanding features of this church is its Heaven and Hell mural. The blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation and man's expulsion from Eden. The exterior of the cathedral, unlike its interior, is made of brick and lacks any decorations. The cathedral complex includes a bell tower erected in 1702, a printing press established by Archbishop Khachatour Kesaratsi in 1636, a library containing 25,000 volumes established in 1884 and a museum opened in 1905, which includes a series of paintings by European artists donated to the museum, hand written manuscripts, edicts by Safavid and other Iranian monarchs about the Armenians of Iran, tapestries, maps, photographs, Safavid costumes and items of ethnological significance, which display the different aspects of Armenian life. The bell tower was built in the courtyard during the reign of Sultan Husayn (1668-1726) and 38 years after the Cathedral. The tower, which was funded by an Armenian merchant, is located directly across from the entrance of the church. The graves of an Armenian solider and a religious leader are located under this tower. The courtyard of the cathedral also houses a memorial slab erected in memory of the 1.5 million Armenians massacred in 1915. A number of famous Armenians including a few archbishops as well as European emissaries who passed away in Isfahan have been laid to rest in the cathedral’s courtyard.