Mashhad-i Davazdah Imam
Yazd, Iran
The shrine of Davazadeh Imam or the Maghbareh-ye Davazdah Emam, as it is locally known, means the shrine of the Twelve Imams. It functions both as a religious shrine and funerary mosque near the neighborhood Husayniyah (theater for staging passion plays) in the Fahadan quarter of Yazd. The structure is noted for containing one of the oldest extant squinches of a type found extensively in the edifices of the Seljuk period; a trefoil arch that was elaborated, multiplied, and finally developed into muqarnas (projecting niches used for spatial transitions to create domes, often from a quadrilateral to a circular base). It thus marks a significant stage in the increasing emphasis on the zone of transition in Seljuk architecture, first seen in the mausoleum at Tim from 977-8.

Abu Saeed and Abu Ya'ghoub, both military governors of Kakuyid ruler Ala-al Doleh Faramarz, began construction in 1036-7 and later Seljuk additions can be detected in the characteristic decorative patterns of the front portal. The structure primarily consists of a square chamber and twelve domes dedicated to the Twelve Shi'ite Imams, of which the central dome rises over an octagonal base created by a number of tri-lobed squinches. Built largely in plain brick with a pronounced batter of bearing walls, a stark symmetrical silhouette and unalleviated visual mass is maintained with a flat, uninterrupted roofline. The building's verticality and heavy dome is emphasized by elaborate external articulation, seen in the use of narrow proportioned brick panels and concentric arches in relief. The mausoleum's shallow dome together with dome of the adjacent Zendan-e Eskandar or Alexander's prison, ascribed by popular tradition to have once been the famed Macedonian's jail (for Yazd's rebellious elite, controls the Fahadan quarter's skyline.

The interior contains fragments of an ornamentation scheme that include a wide variety of carved stucco forms. The design on the dome interior, painted colored shafts overlapping to form a sunburst, is the earliest example of a design that would be subsequently repeated in Yazd. A panel over the mihrab bay incorporates high relief carved stucco in a unique, quilted design not seen in any other standing edifice. A pattern of Kufic inscriptions in three lines, within a floral margin lists the names of each of the consecrated Imams. The structure also houses the grave of Fakhreddin Esfajaroudi, one of the venerated Esfajaroudi Sheikhs of Fahadan from the fourteenth century. Considerably restored in the last century, the building preserves one of the first stages of structural and decorative art experimentation of what is now characteristic architecture of the entire Kavir region.


Pope, Arthur Upham. 1977. "Architectural Ornament." In A Survey of Persian Art. (Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, eds.) Tehran: Soroush Press, 1258-1364.

Schroeder, Eric. 1977. "The Seljuk Period.", In A Survey of Persian Art. (Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, eds.) Tehran: Soroush Press, 981-1045.

Hillenbrand, Robert. 2000. Islamic Architecture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 291, 294.
Hutt, Anthony & Harrow, Leonard. 1978. Islam architecture: Iran 2. London: Scorpion Publishers, 65.

"Davazdah Imam Mausoleum, Yazd." [Accessed April 18, 2006]

"Yazd." Website of the Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Iran, Ottawa-Canada. [Accessed April 18, 2006]

Yazd Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization Website. [Accessed April 18, 2006]
Fahadan quarter, Yazd, Iran
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Associated Names
Associated Collections
1036-37/427-28 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Shrine of the Twelve Imams
Davazdeh Imam Shrine
Building Usages