Dome of Soltaniyeh, Iran

Dome of Soltaniyeh in Iran: An Ancient Structure

Soltaniyeh is a city in Iran known for its rich history and ancient ruins. The most significant of these ruins is the Dome of Soltaniyeh, often referred to as the Mausoleum of Il-khan Öljeitü, also known as Muhammad Khodabandeh. This dome was a marvel when it was first completed back in 1312 AD, and it remains a stunning example of medieval Persian architecture.

Dome of Soltaniyeh, Iran: History

Imagine stepping back in time to the early 14th century. You're in Soltaniyeh, the bustling capital of the Ilkhanid Empire. As you walk through the city's streets, your eyes are drawn to a colossal structure that dominates the skyline. It's the Dome of Soltaniyeh, gleaming under the sun, a testament to the architectural brilliance of the era.

Brief History:

The Dome of Soltaniyeh in Iran stands as a testament to the architectural genius of the Ilkhanid period. Constructed between 1302 and 1312 during the reign of Sultan Mohammad Khodabandeh, this majestic dome was the crowning glory of Soltaniyeh, which was once the capital of the Ilkhanid Empire.

Historical Timeline:

  • 1302: Construction begins on the Dome of Soltaniyeh.
  • 1312: The dome is completed.
  • 2005: Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The dome was built to honor Sultan Mohammad's father, Oljeitu, who ruled over a vast empire stretching from Anatolia to Central Asia. It served as both a royal mausoleum and a symbol of the Ilkhanid dynasty's power and grandeur.

Architectural Features of the Dome of Soltaniyeh

Architectural Features of the Dome of Soltaniyeh
Architectural Features: The Dome of Soltaniyeh in Iran, showcasing its historic brick construction, double-shell design, and intricate tilework, set against ancient ruins and a serene landscape.

Defining Features: The Dome of Soltaniyeh is a masterpiece of Persian architecture, characterized by its monumental scale, innovative engineering, and exquisite decoration. Constructed primarily of brick, it features a double-layered dome and intricate tilework adorning its exterior and interior surfaces.

Design Influences: The dome's design reflects a fusion of Persian, Islamic, and Central Asian architectural influences, showcasing the cosmopolitan nature of the Ilkhanid Empire. Its monumental size and elegant proportions make it one of the largest brick domes in the world.

Unique Features:

  • Double-Shell Design: The dome is the oldest double-shell dome in Iran, featuring separated brick layers joined through buttresses.
  • Muqarnas: Intricate corbel structures typically seen in Persian and Islamic architecture of the time.

Soltaniyeh's Architectural Significance

Historical Importance: While Khodabandeh was deeply serious about his faith, he also intended for Soltaniyeh to be the biggest and most powerful city in the world. Though the city is now mostly in ruins, it was once the capital of the Mongol Empire and remained so throughout the 14th century.

UNESCO Recognition: In 2005, UNESCO designated Soltaniyeh as a World Heritage Site, recognizing its cultural and historical significance.

Detailed Architecture of the Dome of Soltaniyeh

  • Mausoleum: The Mausoleum of the Dome of Soltaniyeh is not just a resting place for Sultan Mohammad Khodabandeh, but a marvel of artistic and architectural ingenuity. Khodabandeh’s body lies here, watched over by two guards, emphasizing the solemnity and importance of the site. The mausoleum's interior is a feast for the eyes, adorned with mosaics, murals, and inscriptions in Kufic and Sol script. The use of vibrant colors and intricate patterns reflects the sophisticated artistry of the Ilkhanid era, showcasing a blend of Persian and Islamic artistic traditions.
  • Dome Chamber: The dome chamber is particularly notable for its use of muqarnas, an architectural element that resembles honeycomb structures. These muqarnas, or structural brackets, are both decorative and functional, creating a stunning visual effect while supporting the dome. Their intricate design and meticulous craftsmanship are a testament to the architectural innovations of the Ilkhanid period. The muqarnas inside the Dome of Soltaniyeh are a striking feature, with their detailed patterns and three-dimensional quality adding depth and texture to the chamber's interior.
  • Double-Shell Design: One of the most remarkable features of the Dome of Soltaniyeh is its double-shell design. This architectural innovation involves two layers of brick that run parallel to each other, joined through buttresses. This technique not only enhances the dome's strength and durability but also contributes to its impressive size and height. The double-shell design allows the dome to span a large space without the need for internal supports, creating a vast, open interior that is both awe-inspiring and functional.

The construction method used in the Dome of Soltaniyeh was groundbreaking at the time and influenced many subsequent structures. For instance, the double-shell technique inspired the construction of the famous Taj Mahal's dome and the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi. The design principles seen here were later adapted and refined by architects around the world, demonstrating the lasting impact of Persian architectural innovations.

Pro Tips:

  • For Architects: Consider incorporating double-shell designs and muqarnas into your modern buildings to add a touch of historical elegance and innovative engineering. These elements not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also contribute to the structural integrity of the building.
  • For Enthusiasts: A visit to the Dome of Soltaniyeh offers a unique opportunity to experience the grandeur of Persian architecture firsthand. Take the time to observe the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into creating this architectural masterpiece.

The Man Behind the Dome

Biography: Those who refer to the dome as the Mausoleum of Il-khan Öljeitü are paying homage to its architect and creator, Sultan Muhammad Khodabandeh. Born in 1280 AD, Khodabandeh was the eighth ruler of the Ilkhanid Dynasty, reigning from 1304 to 1316 AD.

Religious Journey: Khodabandeh experimented with various religions throughout his life, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Sunni Islam, before finally converting to Shi’a Islam. His strong faith and the influence of great Shi’a theologians like Maitham Al Bahrani and Al-Hilli inspired him to develop Soltaniyeh and its renowned dome.

Influence and Legacy

Influence on Other Structures: The Dome of Soltaniyeh's double-shell design inspired many other significant structures, including the Taj Mahal and the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi. Even the famous Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi is said to have used the dome as inspiration for Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore.

Modern Impact: Today, the Dome of Soltaniyeh continues to influence architects and designers. Its innovative design and architectural beauty serve as a reminder of the brilliance of medieval Persian architecture.

Soltaniyeh: An Important Piece of History

Current State: Today, the dome is not all it once was, though a surprisingly large amount of the interior décor still stands strong. There are major renovations and improvements being made to restore it to some semblance of its original glory.

Cultural Significance: Regardless of its current state, the Dome of Soltaniyeh holds an important place in both architectural and world history.

Real Explorations:

Experience the grandeur of the Soltaniyeh Dome through Google Earth. Use this direct link to virtually explore this architectural marvel and gain inspiration for incorporating historical elegance into minimalist design. Discover Real Explorations for these reasons:

  1. Immersive Virtual Tour: Experience the Soltaniyeh Dome in stunning detail from the comfort of your home, giving you a true sense of its scale and beauty.
  2. Historical Insights: Gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural significance of this UNESCO World Heritage site, enriching your knowledge of Persian architecture.
  3. Design Inspiration: Explore the intricate designs and structural elements of the Dome to inspire your own minimalist design projects with a touch of historical elegance.
  4. Easy Access: The direct link provides a seamless and convenient way to start your virtual exploration immediately, saving you time and effort.
  5. Educational Value: Perfect for students, architects, and history enthusiasts who want to learn more about medieval Islamic architecture and its impact on modern design.

More on the Subject:

Dome of Soltaniyeh, Iran: Facts

  • The dome's diameter is over 25 meters, with a height of approximately 50 meters.
  • Its construction required an estimated 200,000 workers and craftsmen.
  • The interior features stunning tilework, calligraphy, and geometric patterns.

Largest Dome in the World: The largest dome in the world is the dome of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran, measuring approximately 35 meters in diameter and over 50 meters in height.

Visiting the Dome of Soltaniyeh

Tours: Visitors to Iran can explore the Dome of Soltaniyeh as part of guided tours that showcase the architectural splendor of the Ilkhanid period. These tours often include visits to other nearby historic sites, providing a comprehensive glimpse into Iran's rich cultural heritage.


Iran boasts a rich architectural heritage, with domes being a prominent feature of its iconic buildings. From ancient wonders to medieval marvels, let's delve into the history and significance of domes in Iranian architecture.

  1. Who built the Dome of Soltaniyeh? The dome of Soltaniyeh, located in the city of Soltaniyeh in northwestern Iran, was built by the Ilkhanid ruler Sultan Mohammad Khodabandeh between 1302 and 1312. It served as the crowning glory of his capital city and the tomb of his father, Oljeitu.

    The dome of Soltaniyeh is renowned for its grand scale, innovative engineering, and exquisite tilework. It stands as one of the largest brick domes in the world and is considered a masterpiece of Persian architecture. The intricate geometric patterns adorning its surface, along with inscriptions from the Quran and poetic verses, reflect the artistic sophistication of the Ilkhanid period.

  2. What is the largest dome in Iran? The largest dome in Iran is the dome of Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. This magnificent structure, located in the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, covers the burial site of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam.

    The dome of Imam Reza Shrine is an architectural marvel, measuring approximately 35 meters in diameter and reaching a height of over 50 meters. It is adorned with stunning tilework, calligraphy, and intricate muqarnas (stalactite) decoration, reflecting the rich artistic heritage of Iran.

  3. What is the oldest dome in Iran? The oldest dome in Iran is the dome of Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, also known as the Great Dome. This historic mosque, located in the heart of Isfahan, dates back to the Seljuk period and has undergone numerous renovations and additions over the centuries.

    The dome of Jameh Mosque of Isfahan is distinguished by its simple yet elegant design, featuring a double-shell structure with a central brick dome supported by an inner and outer shell. It served as a prototype for later Persian domes, influencing the development of Iranian architectural styles.

  4. What are some other notable domes in Iran?
    • Dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque: Located in Isfahan, this iconic dome is celebrated for its intricate tilework, delicate arabesques, and stunning blue hues.
    • Dome of Shah Mosque (Imam Mosque): Also situated in Isfahan, this dome is renowned for its monumental size, intricate tilework, and impressive proportions, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • Dome of Goharshad Mosque: Found in Mashhad, this dome is known for its elegant proportions, rich tilework, and exquisite craftsmanship, reflecting the architectural achievements of the Timurid era.

Keep Learning:

Recommended Books:

  1. "Persian Architecture: The Complete Guide" by Mohammad Karim Pirnia
    • What's it about: This book provides an extensive overview of Persian architecture, from ancient times to the modern era.
    • Why you should buy it: It's a comprehensive guide with detailed illustrations and insightful analysis.
  2. "The Art and Architecture of Persia" by Giovanni Curatola
    • What's it about: This book examines the artistic and architectural heritage of Persia, including its famous domes.
    • Why you should buy it: It offers a unique perspective on the intellectual context of Gothic architecture.
  3. "Iranian Architecture: Past, Present, and Future" by Nader Ardalan
    • What's it about: This book explores the evolution of Iranian architecture and its future prospects.
    • Why you should buy it: It provides a thorough understanding of Persian architectural heritage and its significance.