Kasra location in Ctesiphon, modern Iraq
of Ctesiphon, photographed in 1932 (from the United States Library of
quarter of Ctesiphon, Al-Mada'in, modern Iraq
N 44°34'51 E
m (121 feet)
3rd-6th century AD
Taq Kasra (Arabic: romanized: taq kisra,
also transcribed as Taq-i Kisra or Taq-e Kesra or Ayvan-e Kesra (Persian:
romanized: 'iwan-i-husraw, meaning Iwan of Chosroes) are the remains
of a Sasanian-era Persian monument, dated to c. the 3rd to 6th-century,
which is sometimes called the Arch of Ctesiphon. It is located near
the modern town of Salman Pak, Iraq. It is the only visible remaining
structure of the ancient city of Ctesiphon. The archway is considered
a landmark in the history of architecture, and is the largest single-span
vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world.
The exact time of construction is not known with certainty. Some historians
believe the founder is Shapour I who ruled Persia from 242 to 272 AD
and some other believe that construction possibly began during the reign
of Anushiruwan the Just (Khosrow I) after a campaign against the Byzantines
in 540 AD. The arched iwan hall, open on the facade side, was about
37 meters high 26 meters across and 50 meters long, the largest man-made,
free standing vault constructed until modern times.
The arch was part of the imperial palace
complex. The throne room—presumably under or behind the arch—was
more than 30 m (110 ft) high and covered an area 24 m (80 ft) wide by
48 m (160 ft) long. The top of the arch is about 1 meter thick while
the walls at the base are up to 7 meters thick. It is the largest vault
ever constructed in the world. The catenary arch was built without centring.
In order to make this possible a number of techniques were used. The
bricks were laid about 18 degrees from the vertical which allowed them
to be partially supported by the rear wall during construction. The
quick drying cement used as mortar allowed the fresh bricks to be quickly
supported by those that were previously laid.
The Taq Kasra is now all that remains
above ground of a city that was, for seven centuries—from the
2nd century BC to the 7th century AD—the main capital of the successor
dynasties of the Persian empire: Parthians and Sassanids. The structure
left today was the main portico of the audience hall of the Sassanids
who maintained the same site chosen by the Parthians and for the same
reason, namely proximity to the Roman Empire, whose expansionist aims
could be better contained at the point of contact.
The structure was captured by the Arabs
during the conquest of Persia in AD 637. They then used it as a mosque
for a while until the area was gradually abandoned. In the early 10th
century, the Abbasid caliph al-Muktafi dug up the ruins of the palace
to reuse its bricks in the construction of the Taj Palace in Baghdad.
The monument is also the subject of
a poem by Khaqani, who visited the ruins in the 12th century.
Modern era :
In 1851, French artist Eugène Flandin visited and studied the
structure with Pascal Coste who remarked "the Romans had nothing
similar or of the type".
In 1888, a serious flood demolished
the greater part of the edifice.
In 1940, Roald Dahl, then undergoing
pilot training at RAF Habbaniya near Baghdad took an award-winning photograph
using a Zeiss camera of the Arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq which was subsequently
auctioned by the Dahl family to raise funds for the Roald Dahl Museum
and Story Centre. The photo made £6,000. In his autobiography
Boy he writes:
You may not believe it, but when I was
eighteen I used to win prizes and medals from the Royal Photographic
Society in London, and from other places like the Photographic Society
of Holland. I even got a lovely big bronze medal from the Egyptian Photographic
Society in Cairo, and I still have the photograph that won it. It is
a picture of one of the so-called Seven Wonders of the World, the Arch
of Ctesiphon in Iraq. This is the largest unsupported arch on earth
and I took the photograph while I was training out there for the RAF
in 1940. I was flying over the desert solo in an old Hawker Hart biplane
and I had my camera round my neck. When I spotted the huge arch standing
alone in a sea of sand, I dropped one wing and hung in my straps and
let go of the stick while I took aim and clicked the shutter. It came
The monument was in the process of being rebuilt by Saddam Hussein's
government in the course of the 1980s, when the fallen northern wing
was partially rebuilt.  All works, however, stopped
after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. From 2004 to 2008 the Iraqi government
cooperated with the University of Chicago's Diyala Project to restore
the site at a cost of $100,000. The Ministry of Culture also invited
a Czech company, Avers, to restore the site. This restoration was completed
On March 7, 2019, a partial collapse
further damaged the Taq Kasra, just two years after its latest restoration
In January 2021, Iranian Minister of
Cultural Heritage Ali Asghar Mounesan mentioned that a credit of about
$600,000 would be required for the restoration of Taq Kasra.
Documentary film :
In 2017, Pejman Akbarzadeh, based in the Netherlands, made the first
full-length documentary film about Taq Kasra: Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture.
The monument had been in danger of ISIS attacks in 2015-2016; Akbarzadeh
feared that it might be destroyed soon, and therefore felt urgency to
film his documentary. The film explores the history and architecture
of Taq Kasra with prolific scholars and archaeologists in various countries.
Taq Kasra Gallery
drawing by Captain Hart
Iraqi postage stamp, designed by Marjorie Maynard, featuring the arch
from 2009: Iraqi officials and American military officers discuss plans
to renovate the existing structures
National Museum of Iran, the architecture of which is adopted from that
of Taq-i Kasra