Introduction to Alexander Prison
A trip to Yazd, a city that shines like an emerald in Persia with its clay and mud buildings will create unique moments for you. Eskandar (Alexander’s) Prison in Yazd is one of the most stunning excuses to travel to the city. If you are interested in history and architecture, this place can be a delightful choice for you. Alexander Prison or Zendan-e Eskandar in the Fahadan neighborhood attracts the eyes of every visitor with its extraordinary architecture.
History of Alexander Prison
There are many stories about the origin and history of the building that no one can properly confirm their authenticity. One of these narrations is that on his way to Rey, the Great Alexander built a prison where was called “Kathe” in today’s Yazd region, and later in the Sassanid era, by Yazdgerd I’s order, an urban was built in the area called “Yazdgerd.” However, in none of the historical documents is there any record of Alexander’s presence or passing through the ancient place or city of Yazd, and only local historians of Yazd have mentioned it.
Ziaiyeh School (Alexander Prison)
Later, Alexander Prison was renovated and changed functionally for teaching and discussion as Ziaiyeh School. The name has been chosen because of the function’s change and various sciences that had been taught there. Alexander Prison or Ziaiyeh School is about eight centuries old in where famous people studied and taught. Such a unique historical monument has a mesmerizing architecture that, unlike other prominent historical buildings, does not have as many decorative tiles and at the same time shows the art of the masters of that time. In the building’s construction, only raw clay has been used, which may indicate the reason for its survival until the contemporary century. In addition to the entrance, the gate, and walls that have preserved history and art, the old building contains a courtyard with three porches around it.
Alexander Prison also embraces distinctive sections, which are:
The Dome (Gonbad in Persian)
The dome of Alexander Prison is made of raw clay, but you will see some bricks due to its restoration by Master Akhund Khorram. The dome’s height reaches 18 meters, containing brilliant beds and embellishments with gold and azure watercolours, most of which have been lost. One of the fascinating points about Ziayieh School is the resemblance of the dome to the Twelve Imams of Yazd’s dome, which is impressive and astonishing.
The Seraglio (Shabestan in Persian)
Eskandar Prison in Yazd also contains a large nave that the altar in this section is designed with specific architecture.
One of the impressive parts of Alexander Prison is a well with a depth of 2.8 meters in the middle of the courtyard, which leads to a crypt, five meters in depth. At the end of the ancient crypt (basement) well, there are thirty-eight steps. Reaching the crypt through the stairs, you will encounter a pond at the bottom of the vault. The vault and the pond were designed for school residents. There are many possibilities about the well, representing that the famous dungeon of Alexander’s school or prison was for the prisoners of exile in the time of Alexander the Great. But in fact, the pit was created due to the collapse in the middle of the building and create such ideas among the people.
The windcatcher, which is the same as today’s air conditioners, circulates air well throughout the complex. Next to the Alexander prison construction, there is a windbreak room, where the operation was carried out during the airflow.
Another point that we can mention about the architecture of this great historical building is that the complex is known as a school, mosque, and cemetery, without any mention of it being a prison in the book of Yazd monuments by Iraj Afshar and some other books. One strong possibility is that the present-day Alexander Prison is the remnant of one of the houses of the Razi family, and the dome is the remains of their tombs.