Loss, compensation, and Authenticity in Blue Mosque (Tabriz, Iran)

The Blue mosque of Tabriz (The turquoise jeweled of mosques) is famous for its special decorative elements. All interior walls and exterior facades are covered with very beautiful and outstanding blue mosaic works. This mosque as a significant part of an urban complex was designed and constructed in 15th century upon the order of the king of Iran, Jahanshah. After the death of king a mausoleum for the burial of the king and his wife was added to the southern section of mosque, which still exists.The decorative works of this mosque, became so famous that the name of this mosque turned to its mosaic works, “The Blue Mosque.” The blue mosque in the view of local and international tourists have been acclaimed as a masterpiece over centuries. Beside its decorative elements, the blue mosque have been authorized as a special building for its architectural style and its historical characteristics through the time.

Unfortunately, by 1780, this building was severely damaged in an earthquake. Two domes and minarets and other parts of the building were damaged, and some parts, including the outer shells of domes, were completely destroyed.

Around 80 years ago, a professional team of preservationist scholars of Iran, started a complete study and documentation of this building and regarding to its significant place in the architectural history of Iran, an immense preservation and reconstruction plan, based on historical evidences, was designed. The inner shell of domes and the entire building was restored, at 1973. But, because of the importance of architectural decorations, the restoration and conservation practices for mosaic works are still under the process from 1973.

The restoration of blue mosque is a great sample of a preservation practices based on the Brandi’s Restoration Theory: “Reestablishment of the POTENTIAL UNITY (wholeness), of the work.” This conservation work, which basically includes a vast structural restoration activity, indicates a greater issue rather than material preservation, which is the consideration of Physical form and fabric, history and context. Although the loss in this building is completely huge and in some parts was irreversible but the whole idea of the compensation of style and the historical significances was fundamentally the core concept of conservation decision making in this project.

In other word, the authenticity was return to this mosque and its context, through a loss and compensation process.

Left to right: The imaginary perspective of the mosque based on the historical documents – The mosque after earthquake – The mosque after restoration. Source: “A stylistic recognition of The Blue Mosque of Tabriz”, in Iranian architecture studies Journal, Vol 6, 2013.

Left to right: The imaginary perspective of the mosque based on the historical documents – The mosque after earthquake – The mosque after restoration. Source: “A stylistic recognition of The Blue Mosque of Tabriz”, in Iranian architecture studies Journal, Vol 6, 2013.

The mosque after earthquake, 1910.

The mosque after earthquake, 1910.

The mosque after restoration, photo: author

The mosque after restoration, photo: author

The entrance of Blue Mosque after restoration

The entrance of Blue Mosque after restoration

A general view of the dome chamber and the decorative works after restoration

A general view of the dome chamber and the decorative works after restoration

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