The Madrasa Husayniyan was originally a funerary madrasa (a madrasa with an attached mausoleum) situated in the old city of Yazd, adjacent to the now-lost Malmir gate, one of the four gates of the city built in the eleventh century. Historical sources mention variant names for the structure; the author of Tarikh-i Yazd refers to the complex as the "the Madrasa in Husaynian Alleyway (kouche)"; in Tarikh-i Jadid-i Yazd it is called Madrasa Husayniya, and in the local dialect it is known as "Husaniya-ye Hasht" or "Gunbad-Hasht." The sources, nevertheless, concur that the madrasa was built in 1325 (726 A.H.) under the patronage of the Muzaffarid governor Amir Sharaf al-Din Husayn, a senior member of a notable family who claimed descendance from the prophet Mohammed. Of the existing complex, the domed mausoleum, mansion and water reservoir (abanbar) are datable to the fourteenth century.
Presently, the complex is embedded in a dense urban block oriented toward southwest (qibla) and composed of courtyard houses. The main components of the complex are an octagonal court (which has replaced the original courtyard of the madrasa), a square tomb chamber, and a courtyard house known as the Husayniyan mansion, which is probably the oldest surviving house in Yazd. The mausoleum (Gunbad-i Hasht) is situated to the north, on the main axis of the octagonal courtyard. Measuring 7 by 7.65 meters inside, it contains the three elements typical of domed chambers: the square base, an octagonal zone of transition, and the dome. Inside the mausoleum the patron and several members of his family were buried.
To the northwest of the tomb is the Husayniyan mansion, originally connected to the tomb chamber through a room at the southeast corner. The building comprises a large rectangular courtyard (14 by 22 meters) surrounded by iwans and rooms of varying sizes and shapes that have been modified over the centuries. The mansion is locally known as Khane-ye Bozorg (the Great House) and Khane-ye Tagh Bolandha (the House of High Vaults), referring to the now-collapsed large vault of its northern iwan.
The dome-chamber mausoleum is accessed from the south via a doorway at the southwest corner. The interior walls are divided into an array of three arched panels consisting of a central wider panel flanked by narrower ones. The zone of transition comprises a lower octagonal zone (with four simple corner arches alternating with four blind arched niches), and a sixteen-sided zone of small arched niches above which the dome rests. The interior is lit by three windows on each side, arranged vertically on the square proper, the octagonal zone and the dome.
The dome chamber is built of mud brick. In contrast to its relatively barren external surfaces, decorated only with a frieze of arched panels on the octagonal zone of transition, the interior contains remains of floriated Kufic inscriptions and vegetal ornamentations executed in painted plaster, typical of Muzaffarid buildings in Yazd. Inside the tomb chamber, there is a mihrab with muqarnas decoration in the southwest corner and an undated coffin clad with green tiles.
Despite its historical significance, the Madrasa Husayniyan complex has received little scholarly attention. It was partially restored in the 1960s.
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