News | Cultural Heritage
Soltaniyeh Dome: The World’s Largest Brick Dome

Date: 9 May 2017

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 14th-century Soltaniyeh Dome, also known as Mausoleum of Oljaytu is highly recognized as an architectural masterpiece particularly due to its innovative double-shelled dome and elaborate interior decoration.

The very imposing dome stands about 50 meters tall from its base. Covered with turquoise-blue faience tiles, the stunning structure dominates the skyline of Soltaniyeh, an ancient city in Zanjan province, north-western Iran.


The interior has long been under renovation, chockfull of scaffolding poles. However, its decoration is such impressive that scholars including A.U. Pope described it as ‘anticipating the Taj Mahal’. It is the earliest existing example of the double-shelled dome in Iran.

A great-grandson of Hulegu, founder of the Il-Khanid dynasty, Oljaytu was a Mongol ruler who, after dabbling in various religions, adopted the Shia name Mohammed Khodabandeh.


The city of Soltaniyeh was briefly the capital of Persia’s Ilkhanid dynasty (a branch of the Mongol dynasty) during the 14th century.


According to the UNESCO, the Mausoleum of Oljaytu is an essential link and key monument in the development of Islamic architecture in central and western Asia. Here, the Ilkhanids further developed ideas that had been advanced during the classical Seljuk phase (11th to early 13th centuries), during which the arts of Iran gained distinction in the Islamic world, thereby setting the stage for the Timurid period (late 14th to 15th centuries), one of the most brilliant periods in Iranian-Islamic art.


The very large dome is the earliest extant example of its type, and became an important reference for the later development of the Islamic dome. Similarly, the extremely rich interior of the mausoleum, which includes glazed tiles, brickwork, marquetry or designs in inlaid materials, stucco, and frescoes, illustrates an important movement towards more elaborate materials and themes.

Amazing architecture despite the scaffolding

The dome of Soltaniyeh displays amazing brick work architecture and blue mosaics. It has been undergoing major restoration since the 1970s which is still ongoing, so expect scaffolding. Despite this, the visit is memorable. (FrenchTraveler form Paris; visited Oct. 2016)

Unfortunately inside not nice

From outside the brick dome is impressive but inside it is still under renovation. The interior is full of scaffolds and there is nothing to see inside because of this. All in all it's not worth going there in an extra trip. But it can be a nice stop on the way with the view from outside. (StefanBaW235 from Biberach (Riss), Germany; visited April 2017)

Great outside, dull inside

While this UNESCO listed dome shape mausoleum looks really impressive from outside, thanks to its shining blue color dome, its interior is really disappointing.

We saw a full view of construction structure that not only overshadow all delicate works of art but also the remaining ancient crafted works are all badly damaged and seems lack proper maintenance. (Suwatss from Bangkok; visited April 2017)


Plain is striking

Here’s another fantastic site that has been in a state of renovation for quite a long time, according to the site’s guide. The scaffolding covers almost everywhere inside, but looking up to the inside of the dome is worthwhile. Outside is beautiful, the unadorned pressed Adobe mud/brick compliments the bright blue turquoise dome. (Miriahm D. from Boulder, Colorado; visited May 2016)

Source: Tehran Times