Gur-Emir Mausoleum, Samarkand – THE MAUSOLEUM OF AMIR TIMUR
The mausoleum of Amir Timur is the official family vault of the Timurids dynasty (XIV-XV centuries). The Gur Emir Mausoleum marks the final resting place of Amir Timur (Tamerlane), along with his sons and grandsons. One of the most significant architectural ensembles of medieval East – the Gur Emir was built in the southwestern part of Samarkand at the beginning of the XV century. This majestic complex consisted of a khanaka, the madrasah of Muhammad Sultan – grandson of Amir Timur, and, later, tombs of Amir Timur himself and his descendants.
The madrasah was meant to teach the children Samarkand nobility. Opposite to the madrasah there located a khanaka. The both buildings were erected by Mukhammad Sultan’s order to be become a center of Islamic education. But Muhammad sudden death in 1403 led to a change in an intended use of the complex.
After the death of his beloved son Jahangir, Timur found the features of the future empire ruler in his grandson – the son of Jahangir- Mohammed Sultan. But in 1403, during the campaign to Asia Minor, Mohammed Sultan died at the age of 29. This is when Timur orders to build a mausoleum for Mohammed Sultan in Samarkand. The construction took its beginning on the territory of the existing religious center which was built a bit before by the order of Muhammad Sultan.
Amir Timur ordered to put temporarily the remains of his beloved grandson in a madrasah’s corner room – darskhana, and immediately started the construction of the mausoleum which closed the ensemble from the south.
However, Tamerlane did not live to see the mausoleum finished, he died in winter 1405. The construction was completed by another Tamerlane grandson – Ulugbek. Although Amir Timur already prepared a mausoleum for himself in his native Shakhrisabz, it was Gur Emir that became his tomb and a burial place of his descendants. There rest his two sons – Shahrukh and Miranshah, beloved grandsons – Muhammad Sultan and Ulugbek as well as Timur’s spiritual mentor – Mir Said Baraka.
At the outside especially strong impression is given by the entrance portal, dated with 15 century, which was preserved and decorated with the figured bricklaying and carved majolica tiles. Magnificent mosaic panels were made by the master Muhammad ibn Mahmoud Isfahani. In the courtyard the walls were restored to the height of a man, the foundations of the madrasah and honako were raised to a small height. Two minarets were restored in accordance with the old pictures and measurement drawings, right before the celebration of Amir Timur’s 600th anniversary.
The exterior decoration of the walls consists of terracotta bricks which are put in sequence with glazed brick. The external ribbed dome, which is a symbol of Samarkand, is decorated with small glazed bricks in the form of geometric ornament.
Encircling gallery, constructed under the order of Ulugbek, Timur’s grandson, allows entering the mausoleum’s interior. The interior of this mausoleum is characterized by harmonious proportions and monumentality. The height of the interior from the floor to the top of the inner dome is 23 meters. And the distance between the inner and outer domes is 10 meters. The total height of the mausoleum is 33 meters.
There are window openings in the niches, decorated from the inside with openwork wooden bars. Each niche has stalactites (mukarnas) – clay structures resembling broken honeycombs. They were used to fill arched voids and to create excellent acoustics in the building.
The magnificent interior decoration combines a marble lattice with a geometric ornament, as well as decorative tombstones indicating the exact direction of the graves in the vault, which is located under the main hall of the mausoleum, Ziarat Khona.
There is dark green jade gravestone located in the center of Ziarat Khona – this is the grave of Amir Temur. The gravestone was installed in 1425 under Ulugbek’s order.
The largest gravestone, with a dome at the top, belongs to Timur’s spiritual mentor, Mir Sayyid Bereke. In clockwise order there are the gravestones of Mohammad Sultan, Timur’s sons Shokhrukh and Miranshokh and another Timur’s grandson – the great astronomer and mathematician, the ruler of Samarkand – Ulugbek.
Two small gravestones, by assumption, belong to 2 small sons of Ulugbek. The gravestone located behind the lattice in the niche, is supposed to be the tomb of Umar – the saint patron of all ceramists. The tug, located next to the gravestone, provides for an understanding of the buried here person’s holiness.
Today Gur Emir Mausoleum and its entrance portal are renovated by the restorers, but the khanaka and madrasahs, unfortunately, are left only ruins.