The astrological importance of a gateway to the Persians should not be overlooked. Nomadic peoples are intrinsically aware of the importance of the stars and the people of the steppes who settled in Iran were no
exception. They became a nation of astronomers, taking over and refining the science of the Chaldeans. Observatories were built for Astronomers, they were consulted before important events such as the drawing up of battle lines or the laying of foundation stones. Omar Khayyam was entrusted with the revision of the calendar and Sheikh Bahai's sundial in the Masjed-e-Imam stands to this day. Astrological emblems even found their way into ceramic decorations.
Small wonder then that we find they play a role in the orientation and ornamentation of gateways such as this one which marks the entrance to the Royal bazaar in Isfahan, shown above. The gateway faces south
and the spandrels are decorated with figures of an archer (shown above) with the body of a lion, representing the constellation of Sagittarius under whose influence the city was thought to fall. At mid-day the sunlight falls directly on these images thus breathing symbolic life into the city's heart. Ardelan and Bakhtiar have expressed this concept as follows:
"The doorway is clearly viewed as a symbolic gesture, for, had it been purely a practical necessity, it would never have developed such an elegance of form and design. The concept of the Gates of Heaven, consequently, relates to the time when the Sun enters either the ascending or descending arc of its annual journey. The concept also establishes the idea of terrestrial cycle through the sensible reality of a temporal, spatial event."
Last Updated November 28, 1998