During the thirty years of Timur’s rule, Samarkand has completely transformed. In the western part of the city, a citadel with the Koksaray palace erected.
Day and night, construction work went on, day and night, noise and groans stood over the crowded city. Thousands of forced laborers made bricks, burned and ground lunch, demolished old quarters, dug earth, and erected walls.
Skilled from skilful created plans and models of majestic portals, thousands of ceramists engaged in the manufacture of colored glazes, mosaics. The artists painted the interiors with azure and gold. Famous calligraphers carefully wrote endless ribbons of religious inscriptions and eulogies to the “great guragan”, composed by the court poets.
But the construction work took on a special scale when Timur, in 1399, celebrating his return from a victorious campaign to India, ordered the construction of a Friday mosque in a short time. In its size and splendor, it had to outshine everything that created until then. The grandiose mosque, named by the people in honor of Timur’s eldest wife Bibi-khanym, built in less than five years.
The mosque with a vast courtyard occupies an entire block in the bazaar, near the gate of Ahaniya. A high blank wall with a wide marble inscription at the top surrounds the courtyard. There are small minarets in the corners. At the eastern wall, in the center, there is a high portal with a majestic arch and two round minarets at the corners.
In the buildings of Timur, who distinguished by the desire for everything grandiose, majestic and magnificent, the portals reach excessively high heights and volumes and, being completely separated from the building, developed as an independent architectural form and as a leading part of the architectural complex. Until 1399, portals already erected in Turkestan (with a span of 18 m), in Shakhrisabz in the Ak-Saray palace (with a span of 22.2 m) and others. The Ak-Saray portal was the largest and most richly faced.
Bibi-khanym portals have smaller spans (19.30 m); apparently, practice has shown that there is a limit to large vaults, built of bricks on alabaster. However, Timur, dissatisfied with the size, ordered to break the portal and build a new one, but this intention remained unfulfilled.
The eastern portal forms the entrance, against which a second portal of the same size erected at the western wall, with faceted minarets at the corners. This portal, 41 m high, covers the main building of the mosque with a large turquoise dome. Through the pointed arch you can see the interior of the mosque with a mihrab niche.
In the middle of the side walls of the courtyard, there two small portal-domed buildings. All parts of the complex connected by a gallery consisting of three rows of cola. ” At the western wall, on the sides of the main building, the columns stood in eight rows. They united by arches carrying domes. The gallery opened into the courtyard with a pointed arcade on rectangular pylons.
Above the arcade was the same inscription as on the outer walls. The double domes of the main and side mosques set on a distinct tier of arched sails. In the main interior, for the first time, there is a thyroid sail, used to transition from an octahedral base to a hexahedral one.
This design also used in the domed galleries of the courtyard. Beginning in the 15th century, the thyroid nest has received constructive and decorative development and widespread use. (Its significant appearance was a harbinger of a new constructive dome covering on four intersecting arches.
Bibi-khanym’s grandiose forms are geometrically simplified and laconic. Large planes do not have complex profiling and relief and are designed for decorative cladding. The main background filled with simple geometric patterns of intersecting squares, rectangles, eight-pointed stars, lined with blue bricks; on the background, turquoise or white bricks interspersed with words from rectangular Arabic letters; the rest of the walls covered with polished terracotta bricks. (Belts, panels, tympans, capitals and other details are made in majolica with an abundance of gold.
The polychrome monumental style achieves extraordinary development here, perfect technique and an abundance of techniques. Decorative facings covered the structural body of the structure, deprived the architecture of tectonics. There is no tension in monumental forms, they are amorphous, like abstract geometric bodies.
Abstract beauty predominates and there no scale, since the entire mosque can be built in half, in the same proportions of parts. In the small mausoleum of Ismail, monumentality and grandeur achieved by architectural divisions with pronounced tectonics.
In the Bibi-khanym mosque, simple arithmetic, number, linear height suppresses. Even the ruins of the mosque make a majestic impression. The grandiose size and splendor of the building evoked fantastic associations among contemporaries. Eastern panegyrists: compared the blue dome of the mosque with the celestial sphere, and the arch of the portal – with the arc of the milky way. People still associate beautiful legends with the ruins of the mosque.