The Gur-Emir Mausoleum completes the construction period of Timur’s time. The construction of the Gur-Emir mausoleum required a long journey of bold architectural and constructive experiments, checking the scale, enriching the ornamentation with all possible colors and drawings.
The Gur-Emir Mausoleum represents an exceptional combination of majesty with modesty; it has an unusually well-thought-out structure and complete architectural forms. The placement and colors of ornamental decorations, made only with colored bricks, are striking in it.
Until recent years, it was believed that initially a mausoleum was built with two separately standing minarets and that only later a courtyard was added to it. It has now been established that before the construction of the mausoleum, an ensemble had already existed and the mausoleum had never been isolated.
This ensemble was built by order of the beloved grandson and official heir of Timur – Mohammed-Sultan. The preserved entrance portal richly covered with carved mosaics led to a square courtyard enclosed by high walls, with two-tier arched shallow niches and minarets at the corners.
In the middle of each wall there were tall kishi-ayvans with a portal design. Along the walls, bending around the portals in the shape of the letter P, there was a mosaic belt with an inscription. In the slightly cut corners of the courtyard, entrances to the minarets were arranged. On the east side, a madrasah adjoined the courtyard, and on the west side – a khonako, a domed mosque with rooms for dervishes.
This ensemble, distinguished by elegant and colorful carved mosaics, already existed in 1403, when Muhammad-Sultan died in a distant march to the West. In the fall of 1404, Timur gave a decree to build a mausoleum for Muhammad Sultan, which became the family tomb and is now called Gur-Emir.
The outer outline of the plan of the mausoleum is octahedral. The northern wall by means of two pylons joins the side walls of the aivan. A powerful drum is placed on the octahedron, over which a majestic ribbed dome hangs.
The builders of Gur-Emir proceeded from the structure of a cubic-portal building, but they improved it in a static and seismic respect. Indeed, when using arched sails, the load from the dome structure is distributed over 8 points of the wall. Filling the sails with half of the closed vault prevents overturning of the sail arches and evenly distributes the forces on the walls.
The Gur-Emir plan allowed the builders to improve the structure and erect a proportionally larger drum and outer dome than in Bibi-khanim. In Gur-Emir, the octagon is very massive, and the drum and dome are made of a lighter construction. As a result, the center of gravity of the building has dropped significantly, and the test of time has shown that Gur-Emir stands, while Bibi-khanim has been in ruins for many centuries.
The constructive basis made it possible to create convincing architectural forms, where the main volume expressively emphasizes the dome, dominating by its size, ribbed shape and intense tone of turquoise. servant of God Muhammad “.
On the drum in a calm monotonous rhythm there are majestic letters of the text “There is no God but God …”. The top of the drum is surrounded by ribbons of a dense pattern, visually creating a reliable support for the dome, dissected into sixty-four ribs. At the bottom of the mausoleum there is a white marble panel, and the top of the dome was crowned with a gilded pommel.
The interior architecture is based on the use of a tier of arched sails. This system divides the interior into three horizontal zones: walls with niches, a sail tier and a dome.
In structure and decoration, the interior is very close to the interior in Bibi-khanim, but it is enriched with a wonderful panel of onyx slabs, with patterns bordered by a greenish-black serpentine. The windows were covered with bars of colored glass), four niches were filled with stalactites. The entire interior, from the panel to the dome, is painted with blue paint and gold, spread out in separate glitters. Among the picturesque panels on the walls and in the arches, there are relief stars and medallions. But the lush decor did not destroy the geometric dryness and coldness of the interior.