Visiting the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, Iran can be a somber and, for lack of a better word, religious experience, yet the interior of the central temple looks as though a disco ball exploded, covering nearly every surface with glittering shards of glass and mirror.
The site began as a funereal monument with a mythic past. As the story goes, around 900 CE a wanderer caught site of a mysterious light shining off in the distance and went to investigate. He found a luminous grave that, when excavated, was found to hold the armored corpse of an important Muslim figure. Thus the site became a popular pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims, and a domed tomb structure was created to house the grave. The site was improved and expanded over the centuries with religious schools and other facilities being added to the complex. In the 14th century the site’s signature mirrorball decoration was ordered at the behest of Queen Tash Khātūn who wanted the mosque intensify any light a thousand times over, the name “Shah Cheragh” roughly translating to “King of the Light” in Persian.
Despite being damaged by human hands and natural disasters over the centuries, the mosque has been maintained and repaired and shines brightly even today. The increasingly sprawling site is still an extremely important pilgrimage location for Shia Muslims, however visitors of any faith are likely to marvel at the sheer beauty of this glassy wonder.