Social Significance of Public Squares in Safavid Period

In the architectural history of world great cities, main public squares have been referred to as important elements of urban design. These often magnificent squares have generally been built with a view to the over all design of the surrounding buildings and monuments. They also serve as the most open and accessible part of the city and are utilized according to the cultural needs and traditional values of the nation. Great Iranian cities have also been marked by the presence of this distinct urban feature. It was particularly during the Safavid period in the 16th and 17th centuries that constructing great public squares became an important part of royal projects for urban development. Indeed, Safavid architectural legacy can be deemed as the most lasting and historically significant achievements of the period.

In the capital, as well as other major cities, the main town square was often part of the royal quarters and an integral element of the urban planning and development. These main squares functioned as the staging ground for many of the royal ceremonies and feasts, sports competitions, including horse racing, polo matches, and arching. In time, religious rites, fireworks, and food fairs were held in these squares. Furthermore, these expanded squared became the staging grounds for military parades and maneuvers that had traditionally been conducted in the outskirts of the city.

Naqsh-e Jahan square in Isfahan is a unique architectural masterpiece and has been considered as such by European travelers. These travelers have also referred extensively to other such historic sites in other major Iranian cities of this period, including Meydan-e Shah and Meydan-e Asb in Qazvin.

Reza Moghtader
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