Light and worship have a deeply entwined relationship. From the use of candles and stained-glass windows in the Christian faith to the Diwali festival of light which hold an ethereal role in the Indian religions, and lanterns which feature heavily in Chinese celebrations, religion harnesses the symbolic and physical allure of light for worship and the exploration of God.
However, of all the uses of light in religion, perhaps none is more captivating than Nasir al-Mulk mosque in Shiraz, Iran. Stepping into Nasir-al Mulk is like walking into a kaleidoscope. As the sun rises over the horizon, its rays hit the stained-glass, sending them ricocheting off thousands of colourful tiles in an explosion of colour.
The “mosque of colours” or “rainbow mosque”, took 12 years to build and was finally finished in 1888 under the Qajar dynasty. Its creators, Muhammed Hasan-e-Memar and Muhammed Reza Kashi Paz-e-Shirazi were nothing short of masters at understanding the movement of light. They created a dazzling stained-glass façade in the centre of the mosque, with five concaves extending outwards. The effect, once completed, is that when the visitors stands in the middle, they feel engulfed in colour, as the light reflects off the concaves.
The tiles, rugs, and architecture all take their designs from Islamic heritage, which traditionally combines aesthetically beautiful art, with elaborate geometric and scientific shapes.
Although few mosques incorporate stained-glass techniques in their designs, the practice of staining glass began in the Middle East and Anatolia region in the 8th century. It wasn’t until the 13th century that Venetians began adopting the technique, inspired by Syrian and Egyptian glassmakers, and the practice became commonplace in Christian places of worship.
Regardless of your faith or religious beliefs, a visit to Nasir-al Mulk in the early morning will leave you transfixed and amazed. The ethereal colours assault and overwhelm your visual senses, leaving you utterly bewitched and unsure if everything you just witnessed was entirely of this world.
Featured Image By MohammadReza Domiri Ganji – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43707688
Gallery photos By Hesam.montazeri [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Omid Jafarnezhad (om… [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
By Ramin Rahmani Nejad Asil [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons