Arg-e Tabriz Azerbaijan Province
Arg-e Tabriz (Tabriz Citadel), also known as ‘Arg-e Alishah’, is a remnant of a big unfinished 14th-century mausoleum and a 19th-century military castle and barrack in the city center of Tabriz, East Azarbaijan Province, which was built during Ilkhanid era, between 1318 and 1339.This huge brick edifice is a chunky remnant of Tabriz Citadel. Criminals were once executed by being hurled from the top of the citadel walls.
The construction of the monument began under advisory of Ilkhanid minister Tajeddin Alishah, as a mosque. However, the construction was halted after the death of the minister and the collapse of mosque’s roof. The citadel was used as an educational center during Safavid era. The remnants of the citadel suffered further destruction during the occupation of Tabriz by Ottoman Turks. The citadel was used as military depot and storage for Iranian Army in Qajar dynasty. After the victory of 1979 Islamic Revolution, the citadel was turned into a new mosque for Friday prayers. The remaining structure stands 28 meters high. The latest restoration was conducted by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization in 2013.
The original construction was made between 1318 and 1339, during the Ilkhanate. During the construction, the roof of the mausoleum collapsed and the construction was stopped afterward. Centuries later, between the eruption of the Russo-Persian War, 1804-1813, and the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828), the compound was quickly reconstructed as a military compound. During the reconstruction of the Arg compound, a foundry factory for the manufacturing of cannons for the Iranian Army was built as well as a military headquarters, a barrack for the troops, and a small palace. Samson Makintsev (better known as Samson Khan) a Qajar Iranian general of Russian origin, lived inside the citadel for years together with his wife, the daughter of Prince Aleksandre of Georgia.
1911-Shelling of Arg by Russian troops
During the Russian invasion of Tabriz in 1911, the Russians shelled the Arg in initial attacks. Once they captured the city, they used the Arg as a central command center. During their occupation, because of careless handling, the artillery pieces they used set fire to parts of Arg.
1979-Destruction During Pahlavi era
During the Pahlavi era, parts of the Arg which had been constructed in the 19th century during the Qajar dynasty were destroyed. This destruction was with the aim of purifying the original Arg construction of its later development. The southern part of the Arg was turned into a park, the “Mellat Garden” (lit. park of the people), before the Iranian revolution in 1979.
1980-Destruction by revolutionaries
In the early 1980s after the suppression of uprising of supporters of Muslim People’s Republic Party against the new establishment of mixing religion and state and neglecting of Azerbaijani minorities, Moslem Malakutiselected Juma of Tabriz as the new Imam. During his tenure in Tabriz, Juma began the destruction of Ark’s Qajar era addendum wall, cultural institutes and ark theater and replaced them with a new mosque for Friday prayers. Some people believe this destruction of local heritage was a systematic destruction of local Azerbaijani identity.
1990s-present- Recent renovation
In the 1990s and 2000s, a rehabilitation and renovation project was executed by the Iranian Organization for Cultural Heritages. During this rehabilitation, however, all of the remaining Qajar era development from Arg citadel were destroyed. At the same period, a new big mosque was built next to the Arg citadel. The superstructure of the new mosque undermine the architecture of Arg citadel. Despite the regulations of the Iranian Organization for Cultural Heritages and several court hearing the construction of the new structure was completed.
Further recent destructions
This action completely destroyed the ancient foundations of the original Arg that still existed underground and were going to be used for a reconstruction attempt at the end of the Pahlavi era. Thus, the new Islamic regime eliminated any chance of methodical reconstruction by wiping out the remaining foundations of the Arg. Ironically, this was done in order to build a new mosque, which could have been built a few dozens of yards farther away from this primary Iranian Islamic archaeological site and spare its destruction. Meanwhile, the main prayer hall of the ancient mosque was turned into a car parking lot, in direct violation of the edict of the Koran which considered a mosque’s ground to be sacred and inviolable as long as the traces of it remain. It is visually clear that the new car park is created on nothing but the remains of the main prayer hall of the 700 year old grand mosque.
Address: Serah Taleqani, Emam Ave (City Center, close to Saat Tower)
Note: During the Friday prayers there might be some restrictions for visitors.