Cover photo by Hossein Farahani

From the preface of the book:

The third volume of the Ganjnameh series introduces religious buildings of Tehran, and is unique among other volumes in that it introduces several types of buildings. This is because the present volume was the first of the series to take shape in view of the 200th anniversary of Tehran’s adoption as capital. However, when the layout of the rest of the series was finalized, owing to the particular status of historic buildings of Tehran and the benefits the publication of this book was judged to bear, it was decided not to upset the present composition. 

The truth is that historic works (religious buildings in particular) are actually lost amid the turmoil of Greater Tehran, and that Tehran today appears as a rootless city with no particular sense of identity. The first outcome of the publication of this book can be to endow Tehran with a religio-historic prestige and restore its rightfulness as a city bearing a time-honored historic past. Obviously, this book does not include all the religious buildings of Tehran, but the compilation of the most important among them within a single volume will show that Tehran boasts a varied and valuable collection of historic buildings ranging from mosques and madrasas to mausoleums, emamzadehs, and tekiehs, many of which remain unattended amid the large and small buildings of contemporary Tehran.

The oldest buildings of Tehran are mausoleums and emamzadehs. Although the majority of them have undergone extensive works of alteration or modifications which have changed their original appearances, their ancient historic inscriptions in fact are authentic proof as to the venerable age of this city. 

Mosques and modrasas were mostly built after Tehran’s denomination as the capital city, and therefore, they bear more recent architectural features. This is why various forms of the mosque-madrasa combination appear and proliferate among these buildings. This scheme can be clearly identified in monuments such as the Sepahsalar Jadid (Shahid Motahhari), Sepahsalar Qadim, Mo‘ayyer al-Molk, Haj Rajab-‘Ali, Moshir as-Saltaneh (Aqsa), and Haj Ab al-Hasan Memar-bashi, etc. The influence of this scheme is also conspicuous in the design of other mosques or madrasas which have not taken the full combinational form. For example, most madrasas show to have large shabestans or gonbad-khanehs, and the mosques include several chambers for theology students. Another way in which modern architecture has affected these buildings concerns the design of their spaces, particularly, their gonbod-khanehs, as compared to those of earlier buildings. 

The Imam Mosque and the Shahid Motahhari Madrasa are two outstanding buildings among other buildings introduced in this book. These two large examples rank among the most important historic buildings of lran—The Imam Mosque for its attachment to the time-honored mosque design traditions in modern times, and the Shahid Motahhari Madrasa for its innovation in design and ornament within the frameworks of traditional architecture.

It must be added that despite the historic, artistic, and architectural values of the buildings included in this volume, they have been so heavily damaged and discordantly modified that their present conditions are no better than their ruins. Thus, we hope that God willing, introducing the most important historic monuments of Tehran in this volume, could contribute to the conservation and preservation of these valuable works, beside stress their significance as historical documents of originality of Tehran, and safeguard them from further ruin and alteration.

Kambiz Haji-Qassemi
Summer 1996

Note on the Second Edition

The key significance of religious monuments of Tehran as the identity constituents of the city’s religio-historic background is indisputable, as it is also mentioned in the introduction of the first edition of this book in 1375. Also mentioned are the weary and deteriorating conditions of the buildings.

As it is evident in the photographs taken during 1390-91 for the preparation of this new edition, unfortunately, all except two of the introduced buildings which have undergone proper restoration works have fallen into a more burdensome state since 1370s. This spirit of ignorance shows on one hand, neglect of the important role of these buildings in preserving the cultural-historical landmarks of urban identity of which few only remains, and on the other, indifference towards the serene and pleasant quality of architecture and space making—the exact qualities which, ironically, we are in search for in our present urban and architectural constructions.

Despite all said, these monuments still breathe and stand, and they can be rescued from the disorganization leading to their devaluation and deterioration with a careful effort of cooperation of all authorities and individuals involved. The amiable, gracious faces of the buildings can be revitalized from under the age-old burdens and improper additions. This would undoubtedly create more pleasant spaces to live and pray, making architecture more efficient while also pushing the city to regain its religio-historic and cultural prestige and credibility. 

Kambiz Haji-Qassemi
Summer 2013

Photographing of Ganjnameh’s third volume was done digitally in 2010. Many new photos of Religious Buildings of Tehran were taken during this time by Ganjnameh’s photography team, Hossein Farahani, Mehdi Jamshidi Nasab and Khashayar Niroomand. Some of these photos were used to introduce the buildings in the book. Behnam Gelich khani, Mo‘in Mohammadi, Navid Mardoukhi Rowhani, Hamid-Reza Reza’ian Abhar, Kamran Nakha'I, Jalal Yashmi  and Keyvan Joorabchi are the analogue photographers of the previous edition (1994-1996). 

Some pages of volume tree; Religious buildings of Tehran