Shahcheragh Shrine in Shiraz
Known as the city of wine and poetry, Shiraz is an ideal city for tourists visiting Iran. It is home to palaces of ancient rulers of Iran such as Pasargadae and Persepolis, magnificent gardens, beautiful orange groves, splendid monuments like Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, tombs of unrivaled Iranian poets, for example Sa’di and Hafez, and also a group of war-blooded people whose hospitality is known around the world.
However, apart from all the beauties mentioned above, Shiraz also houses one of the most sacred shrines in Iran, Shahcheragh Holy Shrine. Actually, it is the third biggest pilgrimage site in Iran after the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (the 8th Shiite Imam) and Fatimah Masumeh in Qom.
Housing the bodies of Imam Reza’s two brothers, Ahmad and Mohammad, the first monument in this site was built over the grave of Ahmad in the 13th century. Apart from its religious significance, the holy Shrine of Shahcheragh is an architectural gem and that is why it is visited by thousands of travelers and tourists each year. The mirror-work decorations in this shrine will leave you amazed for a long long time.
So, if you are in Iran and visiting Shiraz, make sure to pay homage to these two brothers and also enjoy the unique work of Iranian artists that you will see in no other sight in this country.
What does “Shahcheragh” mean?
Well, the first interesting thing to know concerns the name of this shrine, Shahcheragh. Literally, Shahcheragh means “the King of the Light.” But why the king of the light?
Years ago, in a dark night, one of the most significant clerics of Shiraz, Ayatullah Dastghaib, noticed a strange light in the graveyard which located in this neighborhood. As this event occurred for several times, the Ayotullah decided to investigate the source of the light. After some attempts, he finally discovered that the light emanated from a grave within the graveyard. So, the grave emitting that peculiar light was excavated, revealing a body wearing an armor. As they searched the body more carefully, a ring was found bearing the words al-‘Izzatu Lillāh, Ahmad bin Mūsā, meaning “The Pride belongs to God, Ahmad son of Musa”. Thus, it became clear that this was the burial site of the sons of Imam Mūsā al-Kāzem and the brothers of Imam Reza.
The History of Shahcheragh Shrine
Escaping the persecution of shia Muslims during the Abbasid rule in Iraq, Ahmad and Mohammad came to Iran and took refuge in Shiraz
Ahmad came to Shiraz at the beginning of the 9th century and passed away there. In the 13th century, Atabak Abu Bakr ibn Sa’d (1226–1260) of the Salghurid dynasty, the chief minister to the monarch Amir Muqarrab al-Din Mas’ud, built the first tomb chamber, dome, as well as a colonnaded porch over the grave of Ahmad.
This monument remained the same for approximately 100 years when further work was initiated by Queen Tashi Khātoon (the mother of Shāh Ishāq Injū) during the years 1344-1349. She carried out a number of necessary repairs, built an edifice, an audience hall, a fine theological school, and a tomb for herself on the southern side of the Shrine. She also endowed the shrine with a unique Qur’an of thirty volumes, written in golden thuluth script with gold decoration, in the style of the calligrapher of the day, Yahya Jamali. The date on the Qur’an shows that they were written between the years 1344-1345. Unfortunately, nothing now remains of the buildings constructed by Queen Tashi Khātoon, but the Qur’ans are preserved in the Pars Museum of Shiraz.
The shrine was once more repaired in 1506 (under the reign of Shāh Ismail I) by its guardian, Mirza Habibullah Sharifi. However, half of the structure collapsed due to an earthquake and was again repaired in 1588. During the nineteenth century, the shrine was damaged several times and was subsequently repaired. In 1827, Fath Ali Shāh Qajar endowed the shrine with an ornamental railing. But, another earthquake hit the shrine in the year 1852. This time, it was Muhammad Nasir Zahir ad-Dawla’s turn to repair it.
Finally, the late Nasir al-Mulk repaired the dome. However, because of numerous cracks, the whole dome was replaced with an iron structure in 1958. This Iron structure, built in the shape of the original dome, was much lighter and likely to last longer. The present building consists of the original portico with its ten columns on the eastern side, a spacious sanctuary with lofty alcoves on four sides, a mosque on the western side of the sanctuary, and various rooms. There are also numerous tombs in the vicinity of the Mausoleum.
The Architecture of Shahcheragh Shrine
The decorative art including delicate patterns of mirror-work, the stucco inscriptions, the ornamentation, the gates covered with silver panels, the portico, and the large courtyard are the most attractive parts of the shrine. The tomb, with its latticed railing, makes an alcove located between the space beneath the dome and the mosque. The tradition of placing the tomb in this position, so that it is not directly under the dome, is to be seen in other famous places of pilgrimage in the city of Shiraz, and may be considered a special feature of Shiraz shrines. Two short minarets, situated at each end of the columned portico, add impressiveness to the Mausoleum, and to the spacious courtyard, which surrounds it on three sides.
The Shah-e-Cheragh Mausoleum was registered on 10 February 1940, under No. 363 in the list of the national monuments of Iran.
All in all, visiting the Shahcheragh Shrine is a spiritual journey which you will never forget, so make sure to visit this sacred tomb while you are in Shiraz.