When Shah Abbas rebuilt Isfahan he was as much concerned with commerce as with security. The original bazaar had been concentrated in the vicinity of the Masjed-e-Jomeh. Shah Abbas wanted the commercial life of the city to be closer to the seat of Government and extended the original bazaar by building a new larger commercial area to the north of his main square. The entrance to the bazaar, which was built in 1619, is called the Qaysarriya.
The spandrels contain centaur-like figures turning back and shooting. These may have referred back to the Parthian habit of turning round in the saddle, when apparently in retreat, to shower your enemy with arrows, but were also surely a reference to the influence which was felt to be exercised over the city by the constellation Sagittarius.
There is some useful work to be done, it seems to me, in testing the hypothesis that the unusual orientation of the main square relates in some way to the azimuth and altitude of the constellation. My own measurements indicate that the long axis of the square lies at an angle of 346 degrees N., and this results in considerable ingenuity being required to orient the Mehrabs in the two mosques at the Eastern and Southern ends of the square correctly.

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Last Updated: 18 April 2000