The smaller of the two chambers is in many ways the more interesting on account of the beautiful decoration of the dome. The treatment recalls the passage in the Quran in which Muhammad described his ascent to heaven. He spoke of an immense mother of pearl dome resting on a square with four corner pillars on which was written the four-part Quranic formula "In the Name - of God - the Compassionate - and the Merciful". The dome rested upon a square, held apart by an octagon which symbolised the eight angels.
Below the spring-line of the dome, and barely visible in this picture, is a painted poem in Persian, which is full of Sufic imagery.
This building, the envy of the Garden of Paradise, was set in order in the name of the Lord of Mankind.
Beside its gilded cup, and the parasol of this dome, the lofty heavens are a patched blue sufi's coat.
From the envy of the Shamseh on its eight vaults and nine balconies, the disc of the sun wanders distracted, like an atom.
Morning, out of love, has placed the eternal glass in the green field of the heavens in order to ornament this chamber.
Through the success of the noble striving of the Adornment of God's servants, and the dominion of the Shah, the kingdom of Isfahan has become paradise on earth.
During the age ... Jahanshah, that Abu'l-Fath, whom God named Muhammadi Sultan.
The towers of his glorious palace are loftier than an arrow of imagination, shot from the bow of fancy, could reach.
Fate has taken into its own hand a blade and struck down One whom the Sun of Mankind exalted.
If Shams al-Din Muhammad has left the base world, may the splendour of Mir Safarshah remain through the ages.
Completed through the grace of the Opener of Gates in the year eight hundred and fity seven.
Trans. J. Clinton in "The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan", Lisa Golombek & Donald Wilber, 1988, Princeton University Press.

The poem appears to have two purposes. The first is to re-inforce the imagery of the dome. The "eternal glass" possibly refers to the Mosque lamp seen hanging in the centre of the picture and the painted arabesques on the ceiling may thus be meant to represent the "green field of the heavens". The reference to the "sufi's coat" also makes explicit the influence of this sect on the craft guilds at the time. I'm not clear what the "nine balconies" refer to: the word in Farsi is "manzar" which denotes a view. The present shrine is, however, made up of nine principal chambers, and if this reflects the original design the allusion may be to these. A 'Shamseh' is a sunburst pattern such as is traditionall found in the centre of roof vaults.
The second part of the poem is more sycophantic in nature and suggests that the original intention may have been to provide a burial chamber for Shams Al-Din Muhammad. Golombek and Wilbur have suggested that this may refer to the Timurid Sultan Muhammad who died in 1447 C.E., but have pointed out that there is no evidence that he ever bore the tile "Shams Al-Din" which means "Sun of Religion".
The tomb below the dome is modern but has been carefully designed to pick up the colours and techniques of the pishtaq, inclduing the careful use of green.


Last Updated November 29, 1998