Madrasa-i Khan: the place (probably) only Byron photographed

ruined, a state which improves its eighteenth-century tilework

Byron did not like Shiraz: on the 17th of February 1934, after visiting the Friday Mosque of the city, our dear traveler goes to the Madrasa-i Khan. This monument is “curious rather than important”, as Byron defined Shirazi monuments as a whole in the same entry that features a short description of the madrasa.

Exterior view, courtyard with central pool and arcades. Photo by Robert Byron (archnet).

What is curious, nonetheless, is the fact that Byron took the time to visit a monument that seems to be overlooked by modern scholarship. Archnet, as usual, is a great source of images, but when visiting the archnet page of the Madrasa-i Khan, one discovers that the only photos we have are basically Byron’s. Baroness Marie-Thérèse Ullens de Schooten took a couple of photos of the building, too, but only the exterior: for the photos of the internal space, archnet relies on Byron.

Panel of the main portal. Photo by “Madeleine et Pascal” (link).

Also, it is very difficult to find information on the building, and everything I could find is Robert Byron’s account, Lonely Planet‘s description, and basically that’s it. Thus, if someone out there know something else, please, tell me. 🙂

The madrasa, in any case, was built in 1615, by Imam Gholi Khan (thence the name). It is still in use, and its decoration is beautifully executed. The decoration caught also Byron’s eyes.

Interior decoration, zone of transition in vestibule. Photo by Robert Byron (archnet).

When Byron visited the madrasa, this was in ruin, most probably due to the earthquakes that partially had destroyed also the Friday Mosque of the city. Nonetheless, Byron underlines the beauty of the decoration, and he even wonders whether the poor state of the building actually improves the decoration even more:

“The court of the college is also ruined, a state which improves its eighteenth-century tilework of pink and yellow flowers. The chief ornament is a spreading fig tree beside an octagonal pool. A pretty octagonal vestibule gives access to it, covered by a saucer-dome on shallow bat’s-wing squinches. These are embellished with a rich cold mosaic of the seventeenth century.”

Nowadays, after restoration for sure, the madrasa is still in use.

Interior decoration, zone of transition in vestibule. Photo by “Madeleine et Pascal” (link).



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