This paper examines the period, under the aegis of the early Safavid shahs, when Mashhad was established as the preeminent Shiʻi pilgrimage center in Iran.
Mashhad, the site in northeastern Iran of the shrine of the eighth Shiʻi imam, is arguably one of the largest and wealthiest sacred shrines in the world. The gilded dome over the imam’s mausoleum stands amidst an expansive complex of courts, monumental gateways, libraries, museums, guesthouses, and administrative offices that cater to thousands of pilgrims each year. This paper examines the period, under the aegis of the early Safavid shahs, when Mashhad was established as the preeminent Shiʻi pilgrimage center in Iran. Appropriating the Timurid ecumenical vision for the shrine, the Safavid shahs refashioned the holy city into a site that celebrated the triumph of Twelver Shiʻism in the Safavid realm and reinforced Safavid claims of legitimacy. While highlighting Shah Tahmasb’s personal devotion to Mashhad, and his privileging of the shrine within Safavid sacred topography, the paper focuses on Shah ʻAbbas’s urban reshaping of Mashhad and the architectural and institutional expansion of the shrine during his reign, thereby enhancing its status as the leading spiritual center in the Safavid empire.
Title: Shiʻi Piety and Dynastic Legitimacy: Mashhad under the Early Safavid Shahs
Author: May Farhat
Published in: Iranian Studies , Volume 47 , Issue 2 , March 2014 , pp. 201 – 216.
Length: 15 pages