15: Religious Architecture of the Timurids

Timur: (1370-1405) A Mongol chieftain, Timur started from Transoxania to build a world empire.  He conquered Khurasan, Iran, Iraq, and parts of Syria and Anatolia.  He massacred whole populations, but saved the craftsmen whom he sent to his capital Samarqand to embellish it.  His was the last empire initiated by the steppe people.

The Mounements:

The Bibi-Khanum Mosque in Samarqand:(1399-1404) popularly named after Timur's wife, this is the mosque he intended to be the royal monument.  Its tall projecting portal, with its flanking minarets was repeated inside in the qibla iwan. The mosque displays Timur's concern for monumental effect and theatrical arrangement.

The Gur-i-Amir Mausoleum in Samarqand: (1404) initially a religious complex appropriated to build a tomb for Timur's grandson Muhammad Sultan, it became the burial place for Timur and his male descendants.  It formed a part of a larger religious complex, and a later madrasa abutted on its side. Double shell dome for achievement of vertical effect.

The Shah-i Zinda Complex in Samarqand: (1360-1434) Named the Living King after a cousin of the Prophet who reportedly disappeared in Samarqand, this funerary alley, dotted with exquisite domes built over 70 years for members of Timur's family, present the pinnacle of every tile technique known to the Timurids.

The Madrasa of Ulugh Beg in Samarqand: (1417-20); in front of the Rejistan square, this madrasa was later flanked by two other madrasas to form a locus of urban life.  Its four-iwan plan has four domed chambers on the corners, possibly as mausolea, and a vaulted prayer hall on the iwan axis.

The Ghiyathiyya Madrasa at Khargid: (1436-43), built by Shah Rukh, this is another ideal four-iwan plan, executed in absolute symmetry, with two storeys of rooms inserted between the iwans. The façade has two flanking minarets and a projecting portal, but with less craving for verticality. 


Tile Decoration:

Banna'i Technique: meaning the builder's technique, it consists of revetment of glazed bricks set within unglazed ones to form geometric patterns.

Haftrangi (Cuerda Seca): a technique that permits the creation of multi-colored patterns on the same tile before firing without letting the colors run together.

Mosaic-faience: reached its apex in the 14th century, it is a patterned arrangement of closely fitted small pieces of tiles which have surface glaze of different colors.


Nomadic Culture to the City

Flourishing of Iranian Culture despite onslaught (continuing Seljuks and Ilkhans)

Striving to veriticality:

Harmony and balance between structure and decoration

Decoration: matt brick to an explosion of colors— Goemetric patterns