Rab’-e Rashidi, an ancient academic and cultural center in Tabriz, Iran, bears a rich history dating back to the early 14th century. Established during the reign of Ghazan Khan of the Ilkhanid dynasty, this site was a brainchild of Rashid al-Din Hamadani, the celebrated chief minister.
The Foundation of Rab’-e Rashidi
Rashid al-Din’s vision brought together intellectuals in philosophy, science, and medicine. The site thrived as a hub of knowledge until Rashid al-Din’s execution in 1318. His son Ghiyas al-Din attempted a revival in the 1330s, but the site declined after his murder in 1336.
A Richly Endowed Complex
The complex, documented in a foundation document from August 1307, housed over 100 employees and 220 slaves. It included a book production workshop, responsible for notable manuscripts like the Jami’ al-tawarikh. The employees ranged from laborers to skilled professionals, along with salaried students.
The Later Years and Decline
After falling into ruin, Shah Abbas selected Rab’-e Rashidi for a fort in the early 17th century. By the century’s end, even these buildings were in ruins. Today, only a fraction of the establishment remains, with most structures perhaps buried underground. Archaeologists continue to uncover the site’s secrets.
Architectural and Cultural Legacy
All that remains today are some masonry bases, possibly including the foundation of an astrological observatory mentioned in Rashid al-Din’s writings. The site also yielded mosaic fragments dating back to Rashid al-Din’s era up to the Safavid period.
The Endowment and Its Impact
The endowment was substantial, with Rashid al-Din and later his sons overseeing it. The Quran was recited round-the-clock, and the complex hosted a hospital, Sufi devotional area, and various educational and religious activities.
The Fortifications and Structure
The complex, atop a hill, was surrounded by walls and accessed through a grand portal leading to a courtyard with iwans. It included a bathhouse and other essential facilities, reflecting the grandeur of the Ilkhanid era.