Holy footprints at Qadamqah

Welcome sign for pilgrims to Qadamgah

This lovely little shrine is around 20 km out of Nishapur.  It has a Safavid-era building, a spring of good water and – most importantly – the footprints of Imam Reza impressed deep into rock.

There are various stories about both the water and the footprints.

It is said that, in 921CE, when Imam Reza was on his way from Nishapur to Mashhad, he wanted to perform ablutions for the Zohr (noontime) prayer in a village called Din-Surkh. With no water locally, a spring emerged magically. In other versions of the story, Imam Reza started to dig with his own hands, revealing a divine spring. The footprints then appeared where the Imam stood by the spring, and the name of the village was changed to reflect it being the ‘place where a saint stepped’.

The oversize footprints of Imam Ali at Qadamgah

Ferrier, travelling in 1857, says that Imam Reza “roasted a thousand infidels” out of a local population of fifteen hundred, afterwards converting the other five hundred to the true faith. The Imam apparently then raised a forefinger of his right hand to stop a huge stone hurled down at him by the infidels, and this stone was then surrounded by a rail of silver gilt and much venerated.

Jackson (1911) suggests that a black stone rolled itself out from the (pre-Islamic) fire temple in the village, asking to be redeemed. Then when Imam Reza stepped on the stone, his footprints were left deeply impressed there. The rock with the footprints on it was hidden in a well until Imam Reza is supposed to have revealed the hiding place when he appeared in a vision to Shah Abbas. After the stone had been recovered, Abbas is said to have ordered a shrine to be erected on the spot.

Much less romantically, the official Iranian records say that the shrine was actually erected by Shah Soleiman in 1680.

3 thoughts on “Holy footprints at Qadamqah”

  1. Dear Caroline

    As you say, there is a very special atmosphere at Qadamqah, and some of the local pilgrims are moved to tears. We were amazed to see the very detailed footprints in 2005 (as in your photo) because when we first visited in 1997 they were nothing like it. They were just two big blobs, as if made by outsize boots and definitely had no toes showing. When we remarked on this to some locals, they admitted that there had been some restoration but still firmly believed that these were the real prints. There is nothing that can shake true faith!

  2. John has sent me another response:

    Strange that I felt rather the same at Walsingham in Norfolk despite being 100% atheist.
    I went to Iran early 2009 [midst the Shah Abbas course you were doing if you recall], but somewhat fear, but would love, if safe, to return.
    FANTASTIC country with s##t government, but not alone there of course …
    p.s. don’t read blog every week, but love the snippet format.

  3. Qadamgah is one of the most special shrines on the road to Mashhad. Although there are some great stories about what happened when Imam Reza was there, in this weeks blog; then the current building was probably only built in the time of Shah Soleiman. Maybe Abbas didnt go there at all when he walked past in 1601.
    When I was following the Great Shah, though, I did stop at the shrine. I went and sat by myself around the back, in the women’s area. To start with, I could only cynically notice that the holy footprints were much bigger than any human’s could be – they’re supposed to belong to Imam Reza. But after sitting looking at the footprints for a while, and despite my complete lack of any religious beliefs, I feel duty bound to tell you that I slowly realised what a very special special place the shrine is. And it really felt that the footprints had something to do with that!


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