A Survey of Persian Historic Bathhouses from the Safavid to the Qajar Period (With an Emphasis on Decorations and Architectural Features)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 University of Zabol

2 Tehran University of Art

3 Islamic Azad University of Qazvin



Decoration plays an important role in Islamic-Persian architecture. Being a synthesis of ancient traditions, Islamic instructions, and different periods' developments, this style of architecture applies various kinds of ornamentation that convey spiritual values and concepts besides beauty. Although in Islamic lands and civilization, mosques have constantly been the focus of religious attention with magnificent decorations, other places such as bathhouses (hammām)—being in direct connection with ceremonious purification—enjoyed such characteristics as well. Despite the fact that there have remained few pre-Safavid samples of historic bathhouses, such buildings abound from this period on. Studying these works acquaints us with the ornamental styles of the traditional bathhouses and makes us familiar with the evolution of decorations in later periods. The present study, conducted using analytical-descriptive and historical-comparative methods, aimed to investigate the developing trends emerged and continued in bathhouses with an emphasis on such decorative elements as tilework, wall painting, lime work, etc. from the Safavid era to the Qajar era. The results showed that Safavid architects' achievements in bathhouses decorations were manifested, as in other fields of art and culture, in those of later periods, especially the Qajar era. By increasing the motifs and expanding the spaces, Qajar artists extended and applied those methods and innovations in some ornamental elements preserving the decorative tradition of Islamic-Persian architecture, particularly in public bathhouses.