Ali Qapu (the Sublime Gate) is a grand palace in
Isfahan, Iran. It is located on the western side of
the Naghsh-i Jahan Square opposite to Sheikh lotf
allah mosque, and had been originally designed as a
vast portal. It is forty-eight meters high and there
are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult
spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room,
deep circular niches are found in the walls, having
not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic.
The name Ali Qapu, (Turkish for "high gate"), was
given to this place as it was right at the entrance
to the Safavid palaces which stretched from the
Maidan Naqsh-i-Jahan to the Chahar Bagh Boulevard.
The building, another wonderful Safavid edifice, was
built by decree of Shah Abbas the Great in the early
seventeenth century. It was here that the great
monarch used to entertain noble visitors, and
foreign ambassadors. Shah Abbas, here for the first
time celebrated the Now - ruz (New Year's Day) of
1006 AH / 1597 A.D. A large and massive rectangular
structure, the Ali Qapu is 48 meters high and has
six floors, fronted with a wide terrace whose
ceiling is inlaid and supported by wooden columns.
Ali Qapu is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by
Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and
his pupils. There are floral, animal, and bird
motifs. The highly ornamented doors and windows of
the palace have almost all been pillaged at times of
social anarchy. Only one window on the third floor
has escaped the ravages of time. Ali Qapu was
repaired and restored substantially during the reign
of Shah Sultan Hussein, the last Safavid ruler, but
fell into a dreadful state of dilapidation again
during the short reign of invading Afghans. under
the Qajar Nasir al-Din shah's reign (1848-96), the
Safavid cornices and floral tiles above the portal
were replaced by tiles bearing inscriptions.
Shah Abbas II was enthusiastic about the
embellishment and perfection of Ali Qapu. His chief
contribution was given to the magnificent hall, the
constructures on the third floor. The 18 columns of
the hall are covered with mirrors and its ceiling is
decorated with great paintings.
The chancellery was stationed on the first floor. On
the sixth, the royal reception and banquets were
held. The largest rooms are found on this floor. The
stucco decoration of the banquet hall abounds in
motif of various vessels and cups. The sixth floor
was popularly called (the music room).
Here various ensembles performed music and sang
songs. From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler
watched polo, maneuvers and the horse-racing
opposite the square of Naqsh-i-Jahan.
Cause of Denomination
The Ali Qapu has multiple connotations, but
generally connotes entrance or supreme gate to the
complex of palaces and public buildings of the
The Ali Qapu building was founded in several stages,
beginning from a building with a single gate, with
entrance to the government building complex, and
gradually developed, ending in the existing shape.
The period of the development, with intervals lasted
approximately seventy years.
First Stage : The initial building acting as
entrance to the complex was in cubical shape and in
two stories, with dimensions measuring 20 x 19 meter
and 13 meter high.
Second Stage : Foundation of the upper hall,
built on the entrance vestibule, with cubical shape,
over the initial cubic shape structure with the same
height in two visible stories.
Third Stage : Foundation of the fifth story,
the music amphitheater or music hall, built on the
lower hall, using the central room for sky light,
and thus the vertical extension being emphasized.
Fourth Stage : Foundation of the eastern
verandah or pavilion advancing towards the square,
supported by the tower shaped building. By
foundation of this verandah, the entrance vestibule
was extended along the main gate and passage to the
market, perpendicular to the eastern flank of the
Fifth Stage : Foundation of the wooden
ceiling of the verandah, supported by 18 wooden
columns, and contemporaneous with erection of the
ceiling, an additional stairway of the southern
flank was founded and was called the Kingly
Sixth Stage : During this stage a water tower
was built in the northern flank for provision of
water for the copper pool of the columned verandah.
Plaster decorations in reception story and music
The room on the sixth floor is also decorated with
plasterwork, representing pots and vessels and one
is famous as the music and sound room. It is
certainly well worth visiting for the cut out
decorations round the room, which represent a
considerable artistic feat. These cut out shapes
were not placed there to act as cupboards: the
stuccowork is most delicate and falls to pieces at
the highest touch. So we conclude that it was placed
in position in these rooms for ornament and
decoration. The rooms were used for private parties
and for the King's musicians, and these hollow
places in the walls retained the echoes and produced
the sounds of the singing and musical instruments
clearly in all parts.
The decoration of the large room on the third
floor which opens out on the large pillared hall,
and which was used by Shah Abbas for entertaining
his official guests is the most interesting.
Fortunately the ceilings, on which birds are
depicted in their natural colors, have remained
without interference in their original state from
Safavid times, and these are the best roofs in the