Isfahan Province > Isfahan > Zayandehrud River
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Historical Period : Safavid
There are a number of historical bridges spanning northern and southern banks of Zayandehrud in Isfahan.
The Allahverdi Khan Bridge, popularly known as Si-o-se-pol (lit. '[the] bridge of thirty-three [spans]'), is the largest of the eleven historical bridges on the Zayanderud, the largest river of the Iranian Plateau, in Isfahan, Iran.
The bridge was built in the early 17th century to serve as both a bridge and a dam. It is a popular recreational gathering place, and is one of the most famous examples of Iran's Safavid architecture.
Si-o-se-pol was built between 1599 and 1602, under the reign of Abbas I, the fifth Safavid king (shah) of Iran. It was constructed under the supervision of Allahverdi Khan Undiladze, the commander-in-chief of the armies, who was of Georgian origin, and was also named after him.
The bridge served particularly as a connection between the mansions of the elite, as well as a link to the city's vital Armenian neighborhood of New Julfa.
The bridge has a total length of 297.76 metres (976.9 ft) and a total width of 14.75 metres (48.4 ft). It is a vaulted arch bridge consisting of two superimposed rows of 33 arches, from where its popular name of Si-o-se-pol comes, and is made of stone. The longest span is about 5.60 metres (18.4 ft). The interior of Si-o-se-pol had originally been decorated with paintings, which were often described by travelers to have been erotic.
There is a larger base plank at the start of the bridge, under which the Zayanderud flows, supporting a tea house, which is nowadays abandoned.
The Khaju Bridge was built around 1650, under the reign of Abbas II, the seventh Safavid king (shah) of Iran, on the foundations of an older bridge. The existing inscriptions suggest that the bridge was repaired in 1873. There is a pavilion located in the center of the structure, inside which Abbas II would have once sat, admiring the view. Today, remnants of a stone seat is all that is left of the king's chair.
In words of Arthur Pope and Jean Chardin, Khaju is "the culminating monument of Persian bridge architecture and one of the most interesting bridges extant ... where the whole has rhythm and dignity and combines in the happiest consistency, utility, beauty, and recreation."
The bridge has 23 arches, and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It was originally decorated with tilework and paintings, and served as a teahouse. The pass way of the bridge is made of bricks and stones with 21 larger and 26 smaller inlet and outlet channels, and is 7.5 meters wide. The pieces of stone used in the bridge are over 2 meters long, and the distance between every channel and the ceiling base is 21 meters.
There are several sluice gates under the archways, through which the water flow of the Zayanderud is regulated. When the sluice gates are closed, the water level behind the bridge is raised to facilitate the irrigation of the many gardens along the river upstream of the bridge. On the upper level of the bridge, the main central aisle was utilized by horses and carts, and the vaulted paths on either side by pedestrians. Octagonal pavilions in the center of the bridge on both the down and the upstream sides provide vantage points for the remarkable views. The lower level of the bridge may be accessed by pedestrians and remains a popular shady place for relaxing.
Iranian architects have raised concerns about damage inflicted on the bridge during recent "improvement program" renovations, citing, among other problems, the destruction of the original stepped base of the bridge, the alterations made to the riverbed, and the removal of the Safavid inscribed stone blocks from the bridge.