Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble

A masterpiece of post-Islamic Iranian architecture, Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble is one of Iran’s UNESCO world heritage sites that attracts tons of Iranian and non-Iranian tourists to Ardabil every year.

This Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble has great historical value besides being an architectural gem in northwest Iran. Let’s have a look at what makes this place a must-see for every traveler in Ardabil.

The History of Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble

This ensemble was built between the early 16th century and the late 18th century as was used as a Khaneghah which is a spiritual retreat for Sufis.

Interested to know about Sufism in Iran? Click here

This place is actually a complex made from several sections with different functions. A library, a mosque, a school, mausolea, a cistern, a hospital, kitchen, bakery and several offices are sections of this complex.

Interestingly, this complex features seven segments which symbolize the seven stages of Sufi mysticism. In addition, these segments are separated by eight gates representing the eight attitudes that Sufis have towards Sufism.

Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble was built in 735 AH but parts of it were added later during the early Safafid era. This ensemble has always been regarded as the most prominent Sufi shrine because it is home to the tomb of the founder of Safavid dynasty, Shah Ismail I. This ensemble is vastly known as a representation of the fundaments of Persian Sufism and mysticism.

Most Important Architectural Characteristics

Sheikh Safi al-Din Shrine

This ensemble is mostly famous for its intricately ornamented interiors and a valuable collection of antiques. If you want to see all elements of medieval Islamic architecture and design in one place, Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble is where you have to visit. The decorative patterns inspired by Ilkhanid and Timurid architecture have given a unique identity to this place. It’s noted that later Khaneghahs of Iran were mostly designed and built with inspiration from Sheikh Safi’s ensemble and shrine. Not to mention that the architecture of this place was very innovative and had a great influence on post-Islamic Iranian architecture.

Sheikh Safi Shrine in Ardabil

Any architecture enthusiast gets astonished by the refined design, delicate decoration and breath-taking special pattern of Sheikh Safi al-din shrine. It’s not similar to what you might see in an Iranian mosque because it has been built with different aesthetic views. So if you are short in time while traveling Ardabil, make sure you visit Sheikh Safi al-din khaneghah and shrine ensemble as one of the most prominent examples of Iranian architecture.

Allah – Allah Dome

Allah Allah Dome

Allah – Allah Dome is referred to as the main building of Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble. It’s an octagonal structure roofed by a turquoise dome which is decorated by an eye-catching calligraphy that depicts the repeated word “Allah” in a very artistic style.  

Who was Sheikh Safi al-din?

For understanding the cultural and historical value of this complex, we have to see who Sheikh Safi al-din was and what makes his shrine a much respected place for Sufis.

Sheikh Safi al-din (1253 – 1334), the ancestor of Shah Ismail I, was a great poet and theosophy and most importantly the founder of Safavid mysticism. But his great fame and reputation was mostly due to his hospitality especially to refugees. He was also admired by Ilkhanids for his spiritual and mystic insights. He was highly respected by Ilkhanid royals and even received presents from them annually.

Historic Figures Entombed in Sheikh Safi al-din Ensemble

As explained earlier, Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble has great historical value for being home to several tombs of important historic figures.

The most important historic figure who has been entombed here is Shah Ismail I, the first ruler of Safavid dynasty. Also, his wife who was mother of Shah Tahmasp – the longest reigning king of Safavid dynasty – and some of the victims of Chaldiran battle have been buried in this shrine ensemble.

We highly recommend you to visit this complex with a knowledgeable guide in order to grasp the whole historical and cultural value that lays behind this valuable place.

Sectors of the Ensemble

This magnificent complex is a prototype of 16th century Sufi retreats. It includes several sectors that are named as follows:

Jannat Sara Mosque, Ghandil Khane, Chini Khaneh, Chelleh Khaneh, Sharbat Khaneh, Shahid Gah, Haram Khaneh and Shah Neshin.

What is Ghandil Khaneh?

Sheikh Safi aldin UNESCO heritage

The long prayer hall of the complex is called Ghandil Khaneh and is the most outstanding section of the ensemble. Roof of this hall, with gold paint decorations and vaulting designs are so miraculous that you’ll feel as if you’re taken away from the world of reality.

Chini Khaneh: A Collection of Chinese Porcelain

Chini Khaneh

It’s noteworthy to mention that the most splendid porcelains of 14th to 16th century were donated to Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine ensemble by Shah Abbas I. Unfortunately, most of the Chinese ware were taken by Russian corps but this ensemble is still known as one of the holders of the best Chinese porcelain in the world.

Ardabil Carpet

Sheikh Safi Shrine Carpet

One of the most remarkable masterpieces of Persian art, Ardabil Carpet used to lay in Sheikh Safi al-din Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble until 1893.It is now kept in “Victoria Albert Hall” of London and is universally famous for its exceptional beauty and is set in the list of 50 artistic masterpieces of the world.

This exquisite carpet was woven by Master Maghsoud Kashani under the order of Shah Tahmasp. It took Master Maghsoud Kashani 16 years to finish the weaving of the Ardabil carpet. The pattern of the carpet is exactly similar to the patter of the ornaments on the ceiling of Ghandil Khaneh, one of the halls of the Khaneghah. This carpet features a large yellow medallion in its center surrounded by swirling flowers and leaves which is a characteristic of Safavid era design.

Today, the famous Ardabil carpet is replaced by a similar carpet that had later been woven in Iran in order to help visitors imagine what it was like to enter a hall with breathtakingly beautiful carpet and ceiling decoration.

Interested to visit Sheikh Safi Khaneghah and Shrine Ensemble?

If you are interested in visiting this magnificent place, you have to plan a trip to Ardabil, a tourist-friendly city with lovely nature and historical value. We have a wide range of itineraries that you can choose from! So don’t hesitate to contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes for planning your next adventure!