Prayer Niche from Kashan

Kashan is an old trade and commercial city 260 kilometres south of Tehran. In the 12 and 13 centuries it was known far and wide for its gleaming golden lustre faience. The masters of Kashan had so perfected the art that even today "Kashani" is used throughout thwe orient as a synonym for coloured tiles. The lustre faience covered the walls of palaces and mosques and entire streets gleamed with its golden shimmer.

And the prayer niche for the city's most important mosque was also covered in glossy tiles. Prayer niches, called "mihrabs" in Arabic, were built into the wall of the mosque facing Mecca. They were often ornately decorated. The mihrab from the Maidan mosque is one of the most magnificent as well as one of the largest ever built of lustre tiles. The prayer niche is made up of 74 separate plates. The massive plate above the two columns is a technical masterpiece of its own. It's extremely difficult to fire tiles of that enormous size. Also rare is the fact that we know who we have to thank for this amazing artwork. Most prayer niches are not signed. But the mihrab of Kashan is: it was done by al-Hasan bin Arabshah in the year 1226.