News ID: 124290
Published: 0237 GMT August 11, 2015

Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili Shrine

Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili Shrine

Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili shrine complex, built between the beginning of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century CE, is a spiritual retreat in the Sufi tradition using traditional Iranian architectural style to make maximum use of the 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 an access route to the shrine of Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili which is divided into seven segments mirroring the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, separated by eight gates representing the eight mind-sets of Sufism. The complex includes well-preserved and richly ornamented façades and interiors, with a remarkable collection of antique artifacts. It constitutes a rare collection of elements from the medieval Islamic architecture.

According to, Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili Site was built as a small microcosmic city with bazaars, public baths, squares, religious buildings, houses and offices. It was the largest and most complete monastery and the most prominent Sufi shrine — home to the tomb of the founder of Safavid dynasty.

For these reasons, it has evolved into a display of sacred artworks and architectures from the 14th to the 18th centuries CE and a center of Sufi religious pilgrimage.

The Sheikh Safieddin Mausoleum in Ardabil, northwest of Iran, has a global appeal as an artistic and architectural masterpiece and an outstanding representation of Sufism principles. It was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.

Ilkhanid and Teymurid architectural styles, influenced by Sufi philosophy, have created new spatial forms and decorative patterns. The design of the complex became a prototype for innovative architectural expressions and a reference for other monasteries. 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.

The conception of the entire complex's design, the proportions of the internal and external spaces and of the buildings, and their decoration have led to the creation of a unique complex in which aesthetics and spirituality are in a harmonious balance.

The architectural spaces and features of the nominated property have been inspired by styles of the Ilkhanid and Teymurid eras with the religious message of Sufism.

Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili Site is an outstanding example of a 16th century  CE religious complex, combined with social, charitable, cultural and educational functions, which contains all the significant elements to characterize Safavid architecture. It became a prototype for other monasteries and shrines.


Integrity and authenticity

The property contains all the elements that show its global value. Most of the elements of the property are in good condition.  Despite undergoing several renovations, the site continues to present an image of harmonious composition, in which the material realization of the spiritual path through the architectural design is still clearly legible.

The design of the entire complex and individual buildings has been retained and their religious functions have been maintained in most cases. Where they have changed, the new uses are appropriate to the architectural structure in general, and the material and technical authenticity has been retained, as well as the spiritual character of the place.


Protection and management requirements

The property has been protected under Iranian legislation since 1932. According to the law currently in force, special protection provisions are in place for the property, the buffer zone and a wider area called 'the landscape zone'.


Historical Description

Sufism began to develop into a spiritual movement in the 9th and 10th centuries CE. Sufism is claimed to have been a definitive factor in the spread of Islam and creation of an integrated Islamic culture in Africa and Asia. Sufism flourished between the 13th and 16th centuries CE throughout the Islamic world. It is an intellectual culture with specific directions given by different orders founded by Sufi mystics. Sufism has left a number of artistic manifestations — particularly in central Asia.

With the advent of Islam in Iran, Ardabil was the largest city in northwestern Iran, and it remained so until the Mongol invasions, which left the town ruined for three centuries until the rule of Safavid dynasty, of which Sheikh Safieddin is the eponym.

Sheikh Safieddin followed Sheikh Zahed-e Gilani's teachings. After his master's death, he took his place and developed his own cult, from which Safavid Sufism originated. He founded a monastery in Ardabil, which was later became his shrine.

The complex functioned initially as a small city with bazaars, public baths, squares, religious facilities, houses, and offices.

Shah Ismail, Sheikh Safieddin's successor as Sufi leader of the monastery, became the first king of the Safavid Dynasty and declared Shia as the state religion.

The Safavids spared no expense in enriching and decorating Sheikh Safieddin Mausoleum. The shrine became a religious site containing outstanding works of art, ornamentation, and archeology from the 14th to the 18th centuries CE.

Four main phases have been identified by researchers in which the most important structures were built or substantially modified:

- 1300-1349 CE: The monastery of Sheikh Safieddin Ardebili, Haramkhaneh, Allah Allah Dome, and the middle courtyard were built.

- 1349-1544 CE:  The mausoleums of Shah Ismail and Shah Ismail's mother's, as well as monuments of Dar al-Hadith, Jannatsara, Shahidgah, and the yard of Sheikh Safieddin tomb were built in this period.

- 1544-1752 CE: Chinikhaneh Hall in its present form, Shah Abbasi Gate, and the garden courtyard were created.

- 1752 to the 20th century: The school, the toilets and the greenhouse were built, most of them in the 20th century.


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