Volume 3 Number
Henry Maundrell wrote luxuriant prose, and was one of those travellers
who got beyond the bazaar. While it is a fabric which deserves attention,
his entire description of a holy place near Ottoman Tripoli is rich
with the flavor of the times:
are stone Fabricks [structures], generally six or eight Yards
square (more or less) and roofed with a cupola; erected over graves
of some prominent Shecks, that is [those with] the reputation
of learning and Saints.. .To these Oratories the people repair
with their Vows and Prayers and we were admitted to see his tomb,
though held by the Turks in great veneration. We found only a
great wooden chest, erected over his grave, and covered with a
carpet of painted calico, extending on all sides down to the ground.
It was also trick'd up with a great many long ropes of wooden
Beads hanging upon it, and somewhat resembled the furniture of
a Button-makers Shop.. .This is the Turks usual way of adorning
the Tombs of their holy Men, as I have seen in several other instances..
.The long strings of beads passing in this Country for marks of
great devotion and gravity. In this Mosque we saw several large
Incense Pots, Candlesticks for Alters, and other Church furniture,
being the spoils of Christian Churches at the taking of Cypress."
A fabric sarcophagus cover appears in other travel accounts, all
in Persia: Olearius, 1636, at Seid-Ibraham's tomb in Shirvan, "a
Carpet of yellow Damask" (2); Delle Valle, 1619, at the Ardebil
Shrine, "rich silk" (3); Olearius, 1636, at Ardebil, "Crimson
Velvet" (4); Chardin, c. 1673, at the tombs of Fatima, "gold
cloth down to the floor", of Abbas I and Ismael, "rich
Persian brocades attached to the floor by "gold braids",
and of an obscure saint, "a red taffeta with gold flowers"
(5); Morier, 1811, at Ardebil, "brocades and shawls" (6);
and von Thielman, 1875, at Ardebil, "precious tapestry"
(7). The weight of the observations seems to indicate the use of
textiles, not carpets, as casket covers. An unexceptionable conclusion,
perhaps, but interesting, for it adds a woven religious product,
creating the triad of mosque and shrine carpets, sarcophagus covers,
and prayer rugs.
This matter of coverings raises a related carpet point which deserves
a little emphasis. In its heyday the establishment at Ardebil was
a major feudal religious center. There is plenty of room to speculate
as to the origins and intended repository of the two Ardebil carpets,
but to suggest that the Shrine was not the intended site because
it did not have room, literally, for large carpets is rubbish. The
tomb chamber was within a complex of apartments adequate to contain
large carpets, which they did.
- Maundrell, Henry, A Journey from Allepo to Jerusalem, at
Easter, A.D. 1697, Oxford, 1732, p. 394.
- Olearius, Adam, Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors,
London, 1669, p.153.
- Delle Valle, Pietro, "The Travels of....in Persia",
in Pinkerton, Voyages and Travels, 1811, Vol. 9, p. 85.
- Olearius, Adam, op. cit., p. 179.
- Voyages de Chevalier Chardin in Perse, ed. L. Langles,
Paris, (complete edition), 1811, Vol. II, p. 424, 435, 453, and
Vol. VIII, p. 206.
- Morier, James, Second Journey Through Persia, London,
1818, p. 254.
- von Thielman, Max, Journey in Asia, London, 1875, Vol. 2, p.