TEHRAN – Full of mystique but modest in size and architecture, the Friday Mosque of Sojas was built at the beginning of the 12th century during the Seljuk era.
The mosque is located about fifty-six kilometers south of Soltaniyeh in northwestern Iran. Although no date is mentioned in any of the inscription friezes found in the mosque itself, the articulation of its brick structure and decoration indicates that its approximate date of construction was determined to be around 1100.
Three elements are most important in the general form and design of the old mosque: a large square chamber, a dome, and the transition between the two. In plan, the square-shaped mosque is oriented towards the qibla, approximately north-south. It is entered from the north through an opening in the center of the elevation, just in front of the mihrab in the center of the south wall.
Typical of Seljuk structures, most of the interior decoration is done with brick patterns. Diamond-shaped brick patterns are visible under the inscription band at the top of the cubic volume and on the surfaces between the arches and proboscis in the transition zone.
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According to Archnet, the structure is organized symmetrically with two large pointed arch window openings on the edges of each of the side walls and a single large entrance opening, also a pointed arch on the north elevation.
Four small bay windows pierce the dome above, in the center of each side. Further emphasizing the symmetry of the interior, on either side of the entrance and on either side of the mihrab, the surfaces are decorated with a shallow recessed arch with small muqarnas above and a diamond-shaped pattern on its area. Each of them is placed in a rectangular frame with a floral and vegetal pattern carved into the brick on either side of the arch.
The mihrab is also placed in a larger rectangular frame with a perimeter inscription strip with a rounded section and a second strip with a floral design. Inside these two bands is inserted a half-vault which is embedded in the wall of the square chamber. In the center of it and on a smaller scale is an arch which is still embedded in the wall of the structure. An older, narrower mihrab can be seen through the gaps where the stucco broke the existing mihrab. The use of pigments and plaster found in the existing mihrab implies that it was built later, ca. 1295-1300 when these materials were commonly used.
In addition to the inscription strip describing the mihrab, there are two other inscription stripes found inside the mosque, both dating from the beginning of the 12th century. One inscription strip follows the perimeter of the top edge of the cube volume, while the other encircles the perimeter at the base of the dome. Between the two inscription bands is the transition from square to circle. The transition from the base of the cube to the dome of a smaller diameter above is carried out by large squinches at the corners. Above the inscription, the frieze is a row of four large horns, one at each of the corners, and four pointed arches pilastered between them, located in the center of each of the sides. Above is another row of sixteen smaller proboscis which further reduce the square to a circular shape. The dome rests on a peripheral strip of brick above these tubes.
Soltaniyeh is an ancient city in the west-central Zanjan province. Meaning “City of the Sultans”, it was briefly the capital of the Ilkhanid dynasty of Persia (a branch of the Mongol dynasty) in the 14th century.
The city, which is home to many historical structures, sites and monuments, including the UNESCO-listed Soltaniyeh Dome, which is the highlight of the city’s tourist attractions.