In the late 16th century the Safavid Shah Abbas I established Isfahan as the capital of his empire. He designed a plan on a monumental scale in the garden fields south of the old Saljuq center, which integrated the river Zayendehrud into the formation of the new palatial city. The orthogonal intersection of the Chahar Bagh Avenue and the river created a chahar bagh (four garden) pattern on the scale of a city, which produced a synthesis between Persian and Islamic concepts of paradise, Turkic nomadic traditions of ritual and social uses of gardens, and the principle of a royal capital city. The symbolism and figurativeness of Isfahan within the frame of a chahar bagh cannot be completely separated from traditional notions of garden and paradise, but goes beyond the allegoric interpretation of religious or mystical references to Islamic paradise, bearing distinct iconographic and deliberate political connotations of empire. This paper, by Heidi A. Walcher, is based on the hermeneutic analysis of Safavid gardens and contrasts traditional interpretations of Persian and Islamic gardens along the paradigm of paradise with an expanded definition of the political implications of paradise.

Read More: Between Paradise and Political Capital, by Heidi A. Walcher