Amordad News
Land of mysteries

Chartaqi of Sangbar

Undoubtedly, this land, both present-day Iran, and the historical/cultural Iran with its past borders, has always been like a dynamic museum, with countless mysterious artifacts existing outside its current borders, to the extent that the title “Land of Myths” is not an exaggeration.

One of these mysterious and mythical works of ancient Iran is a four-arched building that was popular in the Sassanid era, and because it was used for religious purposes, it was built in a simple but magnificent style, and in later periods it was used as tomb.

We know that the origin of one of the most important quadrangles (chartaqi) of Iran is in great Khorasan (partly in present day Afghanistan); Azar Borzin Mehr Fire Temple or Chartaqi is one of the three most important Zoroastrian fire temples meant especially for vastriyusan (farmers). In the post-Islamic period, the foundation and the main basis of the plan of these buildings have remained almost the same, but there has been a lot of change from an architectural point of view.

Chahartaghi is one of the oldest, most common, and perhaps the simplest architectural structure in Iran, which also shows the power and glory of the ancient Iranians and their monotheistic beliefs, and therefore it was also common in the Islamic era, with some changes. Evidence of this claim is the Shavazi belief that the columned pavilions were an integral part of the royal palaces. In Persepolis, we see it as the palace of Apadana, a large hall with giant wooden and stone columns. (Varasteh Masoud – Chartaqi, Iranian architectural achievements)

But for a long time, it wasn’t easy to provide high-quality wood for the construction of pavilions and buildings in Iran. It had to be supplied from the surrounding areas of the Iranian Empire so that most of this high-quality wood was imported from Lebanon. Therefore, the lack of wood in Iran meant that the construction of pointed or pointed arches was not practical, and Iranian architects found a creative solution to this problem. So, the simplest way of building an arch was to build this same dome that does not need beams. On the other hand, what you have read so far was all about the magnificent simplicity of this special building, and I must take into account the opinion of Andre Godard about the Chartaqi discussed in this article, who believed: Various tricks were used to turn a rectangle into a circle.

Finally, what has been hypothesized about use of the chartaqi has been for the holy (sepand) fire. Of course, some other archaeologists and orientalists have considered its function as a roadside lantern, a light to lighten the road for passers-by.  This form of architecture in the Islamic period of Iran has been more commonly used in the construction of four types of structures, namely, mosques, tombs, palaces and garden pavilions. (Meysam Jalali and Javad Neyestani – Greate Khorasan – No. 18. p. 35. 1394).

In general, Chartaqis can be classified into three main groups in terms of plan structure:

  • dome with covered corridors and the addition of other spaces around it;
  • having independent dome with a covered corridor;
  • having independent dome without a corridor so that it can be seen from all four sides.

Therefore, the Chaertaqi of Sangbar village that we are discussing falls into the third category, which, of course, we have tried to complete and better understand the subject with photographs. The photos themselves have a different story; With a simple search on the Internet, we, sadly, come across tourist sites, etc., which, for example have used a photo of one of the fire temples for other similar sites in the field of Iran tourism. As a photographer-researcher, when I arrived in Sangbar village, I was expecting to see what I had seen in the photos! And when I stood before it, I saw a very unpleasant scene. This structure, like other distant and neglected works, had been gradually eroded and destroyed. So that when I talked to the residents to hear the story from them, they said in an indifferent tone: “At least this much is left for us”. This tone is found in another area of Khorasan province, and with an opposite meaning, which I will explain in the next photo article.

The route towards Sangbar village was smooth. With the help of google map, I found the way easily; I paved Babanazar Blvd till the end, then entered Mofateh and reached Hojjatabad and Mahdiabad rural areas. After a few kilometers, I entered Sangbar village. Of course, the sign of this village is also very small and not easily seen, and the “dots” of the village’s name have also fallen.

Why is there so much of hopelessness and frustration among the people of some parts of Iran?  Why do we have to witness destruction and collapse of valuable monuments?

Sangbar Chartaqi belongs to the Timurid period and is located in Sangbar village in the central part of Mashhad district.  This structure was registered as one of the national works of Iran on Amordad 17, 1383, with the registration number 11018. This building is also known as Sangur Chartaqi and is located in the Razaviyeh section, 18 km northeast of Mashhad. The architecture of the building consists of a Chartaqi, each side of which is more than 6 meters long, and a relatively low and circular dome is placed on top of it. The structure of the construction in the exterior consists of four arched spans. Due to the current situation, it is impossible to identify the main entrance, and the foundation and four-room foundation has been created on stone. The remains of a kind of truncated brickwork in the exterior and the architectural evidence show Timurid architecture’s style and context.

Of course, since detailed and complete research has not been done on this construction yet, the exact use has not been determined yet, and for this reason some consider this Chartaqi to have been a fire temple, or tomb, or even used for astronomy. Roter believes that perhaps the roots of this architecture can be traced back to the cruciform plan in Iran, especially in the northeast of the country, the Great Khorasan. In the Timurid period, family tombs and chartaqi were built on the tombs of famous political and scientific figures. These tombs are inspired from the ancient fire temples, especially from the Sassanid period. These Chartaqis have been built throughout Iran in different historical periods. An example of the most important of these fire temples is located between Torbat Heydaryeh and Neyshabour, Niasar fire temple in Kashmar, and as I mentioned before, the fire temple or four rooms of Azar Borzin Mehr in Rivand village of Sabzevar.

This structure is made of bricks and stone. The brickwork arranged in the exterior of this building shows the style and context of the architecture of the Timurid period. For this reason, its longevity is attributed to the Timurid period, although it cannot be confirmed with certainty.

Today’s use of the structure, as told by the residents of Sangbar village:

When I entered the village, I was excited and asked the villagers where the fire temple was, and found that none knew about it. Then, I asked about a chartaqi. Again, no one seemed to know anything.  Finally, a lady came forward and said: “Oh yes, you mean the tomb?  It’s there.”

It was interesting for me and somewhat sad to see that the people have no knowledge about their valuable possessions! The village tomb was far from this building. Then, I spoke with two sweet little sisters to see what they knew about this ancient treasure. Asal said: In Ashura and Tasua, candles are lit here, and her sister, Fatima, said: “I do not know why they call it Mazar.  An important person must have been buried here.”

Anyway, several photos will be presented to the valued viewers of Amordad weekly. I have tried to sort the photos in the order of the text and contents. I trust that our esteemed authorities will do the needful to preserve these national priceless treasures.

Research and photos: Shermin Nasiri

  1. Meysam Jalali and Javad Neyestani: Article “Study of the background, shape, and function of Chartaqi in Great Khorasan.” Issue 18. Spring 1394
  2. Motedayen, Heshmatollah, article “Chartqai dome with a turning point in the architecture of Iranian mosques.” Journal of Fine Arts. Fall 1386. No. 31
  3. Mohammad Reza Pourjafar, and Mitra Azad, International Conference on Mosque Architecture on “The Impact of the Chartaqi of Ancient Iran on the Architecture of Mosques and Their Continuity in the Architecture of Mosques in Neighboring Countries.” The horizon of the Future, Volume II. 1379
  4. Massoud Varasteh. Chartaqi achievement of Iranian architecture: Amordad Weekly

Special thanks to Dr. Hossein Kouhestani and Dr.Soheil Aminzadeh


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