The Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai, located in the city of Hamadan, Iran, is a sacred site for Jews around the world. The Mausoleum is believed to be the burial place of Queen Esther and her cousin and savior, Mordecai, who are revered in the Jewish faith for their role in saving the Jewish people from genocide in ancient Persia.

Who were Esther and Mordecai?

Esther was a Jewish queen of Persia who lived during the reign of King Ahasuerus in the 5th century BCE. According to the biblical Book of Esther, she was chosen by the king to be his queen after he deposed his previous queen, Vashti. Esther kept her Jewish identity secret, but when the king’s advisor, Haman, plotted to exterminate all the Jews in the kingdom, Esther revealed her identity and used her influence with the king to foil the plot and save her people. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, and guardian, played a key role in exposing Haman’s plot and in helping Esther to save the Jewish people.

The history of the Mausoleum

The exact origins of the Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai are not known, but it is believed to have been built during the 14th century CE. The Mausoleum has been a place of pilgrimage for Jews for centuries, and it is said that Jewish travelers visiting the site would often leave inscriptions on the walls of the Mausoleum to commemorate their visit.

During the 19th century, the Mausoleum was renovated and expanded by the Jewish community in Hamadan, and it became a center of Jewish life in the city. However, after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, many Jews left Iran, and the Mausoleum fell into disrepair.

In recent years, the Iranian government has taken steps to restore the Mausoleum and to promote it as a tourist attraction. The site is now open to visitors from all over the world, and it is considered to be an important symbol of the long and rich history of Jewish life in Iran.

The architecture of the Mausoleum

The building materials of Esther and Mordecai’s tomb are stone and brick, and it is made in the style of Islamic architecture. Based on the appearance and architectural style of this structure, it seems that the current building was constructed in the seventh century AH (13th century CE) on top of an older building that belonged to the third century AH (9th century CE).

The structure consists of an entrance, a hallway, a tomb, an ivan, and a seating area. The entrance to the tomb is a short stone door that is opened and closed by a clapper, and due to its low height, one must bend to enter the tomb. At the beginning of the entrance, there is a north-south hallway that is approximately seven meters long and three meters wide. There is an entrance to the tomb in the middle of this room.

According to the caretaker of the complex, the tomb is over two thousand years old.  The tomb is a square space with dimensions of three and a half meters, and in the center of the square space are two beautifully carved wooden coffins on these graves. On top of the southern grave, which is attributed to Esther, there is an ancient and valuable wooden coffin, and the second coffin on top of Mordecai’s grave is very similar to the first coffin and was made by Master Enayatollah Ibn Hazrat Gholi Toiserkani, who was one of the prominent woodcarvers of his time, around 1300 AH (19th century CE).

There is also a prominent inscription in Hebrew on the wall of the tomb that is made of plaster. The Hebrew lines are on the coffin of Esther and the plasterwork is from the eighth and ninth centuries AH (14th and 15th centuries CE).

There is a 90-centimeter-deep platform on the south side and a beautiful seating area on the north side. In the northern seating area, copies of the holy and sacred Jewish book, the Torah, are kept in a cylindrical compartment, and various decorations, fabrics, and lanterns adorn the walls of this seating area.

The interior walls of the building are covered with small and large stone inscriptions and plasterwork in Hebrew and Aramaic. In the adjacent seating area of the tomb, chairs are placed for visiting, resting, and listening to explanations about the tomb. A brick dome is also visible on top of the tomb space. In the 1970s, an entrance corridor (currently not in use) and a synagogue were built in the outer courtyard of the tomb.

Although most scholars in the Jewish world encyclopedia consider the story recounted in the Book of Esther as a myth and a story, the commemoration of the anniversary of this historical myth is still not forgotten by the Jewish people.

The 13th to 15th of Adar in the Jewish calendar, which corresponds to late February and early March every year, is a time when Jews gather in a celebration called “Purim,” and with prayer, fasting, and meditation, they commemorate the anniversary of their people’s eternal salvation from genocide.

Furthermore, the tomb of Esther and Mordecai is the second holiest site for Jews after  Jerusalem.

The cultural significance of the Mausoleum

The Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai is not only a sacred site for Jews, but it is also an important symbol of the long and complex history of Jewish life in Iran. Despite the challenges and hardships faced by the Jewish community in Iran over the centuries, the Mausoleum stands as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the Jewish people in the face of adversity.

The Mausoleum is also a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Iran, which has been shaped by the many different peoples and cultures that have inhabited the region over the centuries. The ornate architecture of the Mausoleum is a testament to the skill and creativity of Persian craftsmen, and they serve as a reminder of the rich artistic traditions that have flourished in Iran for centuries. Take part in our guided tours to Esther and Mordecai Mausoleum, providing you a nice visit with a deeper understanding of this mausoleum’s history and architecture. 

Last word

The Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai is a remarkable historical and architectural marvel, and it stands as a testament to the deep and complex history of Jewish life in Iran. As a site of pilgrimage and a symbol of cultural heritage, the Mausoleum is a reminder of the enduring connection between the Jewish people and the land of Iran, and it serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all those who seek to build bridges of understanding and respect between different cultures and faiths.

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