APOLOGY, please note

This blog is still under construction. We do not wish to publish it to search engines yet until we post a significant amount of information. Those who have just visited this blog by clicking links from other "architectural series" blogs or just surfed from Blogger itself, we apologize greatly and request for patience. We hope in due time all the blogs of architectural series will be helpful to all, especially for the architects.

Until then, please visit "architectural monographs" and "film and architecture" a subsection of "Architectural videos" which are relatively rich in content.

Friday, December 11, 2009

timurid (turkistan) architecture: history of islamic architecture


[time line]
[architectural legacy] 
[building style and period]
[architectural characteristics]
[architecture type]
[notable structures and details]

type: Islamic architecture
style: Timurid (turkistan architecture)
time period:


Timur (or Tamerlane) a nomadic chieftain descended from Chingiz Khan established an empire encompassing the artistic and cultural centers Samarqand, Bukhara, Herat and the newly established capital Shahr-i Sabz, which had previously been known as Kish. The 1370s saw the disintegration of the Central Asian Mongol Ilkhanid Empire, which created a vacuum for the Timurid Empire to fill. Decisive campaigns led by the charismatic Timur quickly overtook Iran, Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

brief history of the origin:

the life of Timur 1

Asia has long been the birthplace of would-be conquerors of the world. One of the greatest of these was a man who commanded both fear and awe in Asia and Europe during the fourteenth century: Tamerlane. This name, by which he was known in Europe, is actually a corruption of his name in Persian, Timur-i-Leng, meaning "Timur the Lame." The word Timur is Turkic for "iron": it was an appropriate name for the man who, in his lifetime, rose from being a prince in a small Turko-Mongol tribe to become the ruler of an expanding empire that stretched from Delhi to Anatolia. His life was, in the words of one modern scholar, "one long story of war, butchery and brutality unsurpassed until the present century." 2

Timur was born in Kesh, also known as Shahr-i-Sabz, "The Green City" (located about fifty miles south of Samarkand) in 1336. He was the son of a chief in the Barlas tribe, one of the many Mongol tribes which had made up the hordes of Chingiz Khan (1162 3 -1227) and which had been subsequently Turkicised as a result of the strong Turkic element in the Mongol armies. Upon the death of the great Khan in 1227, his massive empire was divided up amongst his sons, each of whom received an allotment of territory, called an ulus. The Khan's second son, Chagatay (d.1242), received the territories then known as Transoxiana ("The Land Across the Oxus") and Moghulistan (present-day Semirechye and Sinkiang). Along with other Turko-Mongol tribes, the Barlas settled in Transoxiana, between the two major rivers in the region: the Oxus (Amu Darya) and the Jaxartes (Syr Darya).

By the time of Timur, Mongol power in the Chagatay ulus was severely weakened. The Chingisids only ruled the area in name. Minor chieftains exerted varying degrees of control over different parts of Transoxiana. Despite having been wounded in his right leg and arm during his mid-twenties, an event which left him lame for the rest of his life, Timur was able to move into this power vacuum and slowly build up for himself an army of loyal followers. Together with his brother-in-law, Amir Husayn, he headed up the defense of the area against the Chingisids, who repeatedly attacked from their power base in the northern steppe area of Semirechiye in an effort to regain control of Transoxiana. As a result of both shrewd military strategy and subsequently turning against and defeating Husayn, he became the sole ruler of Transoxiana in 1369, establishing his capital at Samarkand, an event recorded by Marlowe in his famous work, Tamburlaine the Great:

Then shall my native city, Samarcanda...
Be famous through the furthiest continents,
For there my palace-royal shall be placed,
Whose shining turrets shall dismay the heavens,
And cast the fame of Ilion's tower to hell. 4

From his new royal capital, the lame conqueror set out to subjugate the rest of the world. The first areas to be added to his domain, during the 1380's, were the regions of Khwarezm (modern-day Turkmenistan), Khorasan (northern Afghanistan), and Persia, all lands which had formerly been part of the Mongol Empire. Although he never expanded his empire proper further north than Tiflis (Tbilisi) in the Caucasus, his campaigns into the Russian steppe resulted in the defeat of his arch-rival, Toktamish, khan of the Golden Horde, in 1395 and severely weakened Mongol power in that region. At one time, Timur was almost at the gates of Moscow, but he never besieged the city.

One of the main motives behind Timur's empire-building efforts was the desire to control the lucrative trade routes which linked East and West. His capture of Delhi in 1398 and subsequent proclamation as Emperor of Hindustan furthered this goal, as did his defeat of the Mamlukes in Syria in 1400, and his destruction of Baghdad the following year. His western campaign continued with the invasion of Anatolia in 1402, which resulted in the defeat of the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid I, at the Battle of Ankara that same year. The European monarchs were genuinely relieved that Timur had so effectively crippled the Turks who were continually threatening their domains. However, they were also aware that this new Asian conqueror could also pose a threat to them. Therefore, they were eager to establish diplomatic contact with the great "Tamburlaine." One of these envoys, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (d. 1412), was sent as an ambassador of the King of Castile. It is from his memoirs, 5 along with those of various Muslim biographers, such as the Persian Ali Sharaf ad-Din and the Arab Ahmad ibn Arabshah, that we have been able to reconstruct the story of Timur's life. Clavijo was present in Samarkand for the victory celebrations after the defeat of the Ottomans, as the conqueror prepared for what was to be his greatest exploit yet, the conquest of China. Around the time when Timur was beginning his rise to power, in 1368, the Mongol Yuan dynasty had been overthrown and the Ming dynasty had been established. Timur was eager to show the Ming emperor, who looked on him as a vassal and had demanded tribute from him, who was the true master of Asia. However, this goal was never to be realized. In 1405, at the outset of his last and greatest campaign, the Iron Limper died in Otrar on the Jaxartes River, 250 miles north of Samarkand.


The empire that Timur had built could not be kept together by his descendents, none of whom shared the same iron will that he had possesed. As had happened with Chingiz Khan's empire, factions soon developed, and vassals on the periphery of the Timurid domains quickly seized their chance to assert their independence. Shortly after Timur's death, little was left of the former empire except for Transoxiana and Afghanistan. However, although the size of the Timurid empire was drastically reduced, his successors went on to usher in the Muslim equivalent of the European Renaissance, centered in the cities of Samarkand and Herat.

Two of the Amir's four sons had died before their father: Jahangir (1355-1375) and Umar Shaykh (1355-1394). His second son, Miran Shah (1366-1408), passed away shortly after his father, leaving only the youngest, Shah Rukh (1377-1447) as an heir. In fact, Timur had appointed his grandson, Pir Muhammad to succeed him, but he also died shortly after his grandfather, in 1406. In 1409, Shah Rukh seized power, making Herat his capital. His eldest son, Ulugh Beg (1394-1449) was appointed governor of Samarkand, while his second son, Baysunghur (1399-1433) served as his wazir in the capital. None of these rulers had inherited Timur's passion for conquest, but they did share his interest in building and played a major role as patrons of the arts and sciences. A chronicler of the time wrote that "From the time of Adam until this day no age, period, cycle or moment can be indicated in which people enjoyed such peace and tranquility." 6 Under their patronage, music, calligraphy, Persian miniature painting, literature, and various scientific pursuits flourished.

Ulugh Beg, who ruled over the empire during the two years between his father's death and his own, was one of the greatest astronomers that the world has ever seen. He built a magnificent observatory in Samarkand and the calculations that he made with it gained him fame in Europe as an eminent scholar. 7 Unfortunately, he was murdered in 1449 by his son Abdul Latif, who was alarmed at the secular pursuits of his father. A year after the murder, Abdul Latif also died. In 1452, Abu Sa'id (1424-1469), a grandson of Miran Shah, brought the Timurid domains, still consisting of Transoxiana, Afghanistan and northern Persia, under his control. He was followed by Sultan Husayn Bayqara (1438-1506), a grandson of Umar Shaykh, who began his rule of nearly four decades in 1468. "It was under his beneficient direction that Herat achieved the zenith of its glory as a centre of art, literature and scholarship." 8 It was at Husayn's court that the poet Mir Ali Shir Nava'i, who popularized Chagatay, the classical Turkic language, as a literary medium, rose to prominence, along with the miniature painter Bihzad and the poet Jami. However, at the same time, the ruler also continued the pursuit of pleasure which had been a mark of most of the Timurid dynasty and which had resulted in more than a few of Timur's descendants dying from too much alcohol or other forms of debauchery.

Timurid power in Central Asia came to an end with the advent of another Turkic tribe from the north: the Uzbeks. These former nomads who had converted to Islam while members of the Golden Horde had become disaffected with a life of riding and raiding and were intent on settling in Transoxiana and adopting a sedentary way of life on the the trade routes that ran through Central Asia. In 1500, under their leader, Muhammad Shaibani Khan (1451-1510), they captured Samarkand from Zahiruddin Babur (1483-1530), a great-great-great-grandson of Timur and the ruler of Ferghana, who had himself captured the city in 1497. Babur recaptured Samarkand in 1501, only to lose it to Shaibani again in 1505. Herat fell to the Uzbeks shortly after, in 1507. Babur made one more attempt to regain Samarkand in 1511, but he was unsuccessful and was forced by the Uzbeks to flee south in the following year. However, his career as a ruler was not over, as he subsequently went on to found the Moghul dynasty, which ruled India until the British took over the country in the early nineteenth century. The Shaibanid Uzbeks established an empire in Transoxiana which lasted until the end of the sixteenth century.


Samarkand, Timur's royal city, celebrated its 2500th anniversary in 1970. It is an ancient site, located on the Zarafshan River, in modern-day Uzbekistan, whose exotic reputation has prompted stanzas from poets as diverse as Milton, Keats, Oscar Wilde, and the Persian Hafiz. Although Firdausi, another great Persian poet, speaks of its foundation in the mythical past, the Soviets maintained that it was founded in 530 B.C. We know little of its history prior to the fourth century B.C., but we do know that Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) passed through the city, then called Maracanda, in 328 B.C. in the process of subduing Central Asia. The city rose to become a major staging post on the Silk Route from China to the West. In the mid-seventh century A.D., Sa-mo-kien, as the Chinese called it, was visited by the Buddhist monk Hsuan-tsang (602-649 A.D.), whose memoirs give us a good idea of what life was like in the area prior to the advent of Islam. At this time, the residents of the city were mostly Zoroastrians, although Buddhism was not unknown and Nestorian Christianity had also been introduced into the area. In fact, the Nestorian patriarch had raised it to the rank of metropolitan see, possibly as early as the beginning of the fifth century and certainly by the early seventh century.

Without a doubt, the most significant invasion of the area came in the late seventh century, when the armies of the Arab caliph invaded, bringing the religion of Islam to Mawarannahr ("The Land Beyond the River"), as the Arabs called the area. The Arab general, Qutayba ibn Muslim, launched a jihad (holy war) against Transoxiana from Merv (in present-day Turkmenistan, south of the Oxus) in 705: Bukhara finally fell in 709, to be followed by Khiva in 711. In that same year, the armies of Islam succeeded in capturing Samarkand. The city soon developed into a major centre of Islamic scholarship under the Arabs. Among other things, Samarkand was the first place where the Arabs experimented with making paper, a skill they learnt from the Chinese after defeating them at the Battle of Talas (751). The power of the caliph was subsequently replaced by a succession of dynasties: the Samanids 10 (875), 11 the Qarakhanids (999), the Seljuks (1073), the Qarakhitai (1141), and the Khwarezmians (1210). During this time, Samarkand was no mean city: it has been estimated that its population in the tenth century was over half a million. 12

The next major event in the life of Samarkand occurred in 1221: the armies of Chingiz Khan captured the city from Shah Sultan Muhammad, the Turkic ruler of the Khwarezmian empire, who had made it his capital. In return for the Shah's resistance to the great Khan, the city was sacked and looted, its soldiers killed and its artisans carried off into slavery. However, although Samarkand was largely abandoned, its history was not over yet. We have accounts of the city by various travellers through the area, including Marco Polo (1254-1324), who, although he did not actually visit Samarkand, passed through the area in 1272-73, and the Moor Abu Abdullah ibn Battuta (1304-1377), who, in 1333, described it as "one of the largest and most perfectly beautiful cities in the world." 13

It was under Timur, the Mongols' "successor," that Samarkand went on to become one of the most glorious capitals in the then-known world. The city was given a new location, south of its previous site on the mound of Afrasiyab, which had been largely destroyed by the Mongols. Under the Amir, as Timur was known, it had become "a thriving city which netted half the commerce of Asia" 14: in its markets could be found leather, linen, spices, silk, precious stones, melons, grapes, and a host of other goods. It was also a city of great architectural monuments, skilled artisans and scholars. Even though Timur's successor, Shah Rukh, moved the Timurid capital to Herat, Samarkand continued to prosper under Ulugh Beg. As Timurid power in Transoxiana faltered after the deaths of Shah Rukh and Ulugh Beg, the city ceased to be as important as it had been. In 1447, it was sacked by the Uzbeks, who were to return half a century later to set up yet another Turkic dynasty in the area.

After the demise of Timurid rule in Central Asia, Samarkand came under a succession of Persian, Turkic, and even Chinese rulers. The city was eventually captured by the Russians in 1868 as this new power from the north expanded into Turkestan ("Land of the Turks"), as the area was known at that time. It is today a major city in Uzbekistan, formerly one of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR.

timurid timeline:

Rulers and heads of the dynasty

Rulers of the Timurid Empire

    * Timur (Tamerlane) 1370–1405 (771–807 AH) – with Suyurghitmiš Chaghtay as nominal overlord followed by Mahmūd Chaghtay as overlord and finally Muhammad Sultān as heir
    * Pir Muhammad bin Jahāngīr 1405–07 (807–08 AH)

 Rulers of Herat

    * Shāhrukh 1405–47 (807–50 AH; overall ruler of the Timurid Empire 1409–47)
    * Abu'l-Qasim Bābur 1447–57 (850–61 AH)
    * Shāh Mahmūd 1457 (861 AH)
    * Ibrāhim 1457–1459 (861–63 AH)
    * Sultān Abu Sa’id Gūrgān 1459–69 (863–73 AH; in Transoxiana 1451–69)
    * Yādgār Muhammad 1470 (873 AH)
    * Sultān Husayn Bayqarah 1470–1506 (874–911 AH)
    * Badi ul-Zamān 1506–07 (911–12 AH)
    * Muzaffar Hussayn 1506–07 (911–12 AH)

Herat is conquered by the Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani
 Rulers of Samarkand

    * Khalīl Sultān 1405–09 (807–11 AH)
    * Mohammad Taragai bin Shāhrukh-I 1409–49 (811–53 AH; overall ruler of the Timurid Empire 1447–49)
    * 'Abd al-Latif 1449–50 (853–54 AH)
    * ‘Abdullah 1450–51 (854–55 AH)
    * Sultān Abu Sa’id 1451–69 (855–73 AH; in Herat 1459–69)

Abu Sa'id's sons divided his territories upon his death, into Samarkand, Badakhshan and Farghana

    * Sultān ibn Abu Sa’id 1469–94 (873–99 AH)
    * Sultān Mahmūd ibn Abu Sa’id 1494–95 (899–900 AH)
    * Sultān Baysunqur 1495–97 (900–02 AH)
    * Mas’ūd 1495 (900 AH)
    * Sultān Alī Mīrzā 1495–1500 (900–05 AH)

Samarkand is conquered by the Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani
 Other rulers

    * Qaidu bin Pir Muhammad bin Jahāngīr 808–811 AH
    * Abu Bakr bin Mīrān Shāh 1405–07 (807–09 AH)
    * Pir Muhammad bin Umar Sheikh 807–12 AH
    * Rustam 812–17 AH
    * Sikandar 812–17 AH
    * Alaudaullah 851 AH
    * Abu Bakr bin Muhammad 851 AH
    * Sultān Muhammad 850–55 AH
    * Muhammad bin Hussayn 903–06 AH
    * Abul A'la Fereydūn Hussayn 911–12 AH
    * Muhammad Mohsin Khān 911–12 AH
    * Muhammad Zamān Khān 920–23 AH
    * Shāhrukh II bin Abu Sa’id 896–97 AH
    * Ulugh Beg Kābulī 873–907 AH
    * Sultān Uways 1508–22 (913–27 AH)

architectural legacy of the timurid:


Timur was not only a great conqueror; he was also a great builder. Whenever he laid waste to a city that stood in the path of his army, he would bring back the artisans to build his royal city of Samarkand. "There were sculptors, stone-masons and stucco-workers from Azerbaijan, Isfahan and Delhi; Mosaic-workers from Shiraz; weavers, glass-blowers and potters from Damascus - in such numbers that 'the city was not big enough to hold them.'" 16 During the few brief times when he was not off on a military campaign, he was busy overseeing his building projects. Perhaps the main thing that strikes one about Timur's monuments is the sheer grandeur of them. They are statements about the man who made the earth shake in his day, as is evidenced by an Arab proverb quoted on one of his buildings: "If you want to know about us, examine our buildings." 17

Although Timur concentrated his architectural efforts on Samarkand, he also erected buildings in other cities, such as Shahr-i-Sabz, where he constructed a magnificent Aq Saray (White Palace), and Turkestan, where he erected a mosque and mausoleum in honor of Hoja Ahmed Yasavi (d. 1166), a famous poet and Sufi sheikh. The first of these structures was almost entirely destroyed by the Uzbeks in the sixteenth century, but the ruins still remain. The second has been preserved in quite good condition and apparently still functions as a "holy place" to which devout Muslims make periodic pilgrimages. However, probably the most impressive architecture that remains from this period can be found in Samarkand. Timur filled his capital with both secular and religious monuments, as well as a plethora of gardens, which featured stone walls and floors with elaborate patterns and palaces outfitted with gold, silk and carpets. Most of these structures have not survived to the present. Such is the case with his magnificent four-story palace, which Babur describes in his memoirs. However, a number of significant buildings have survived and can still be seen today.

There are also still extant examples of buildings erected by subsequent Timurid rulers. As noted above, although they did not share his passion for territorial expansion, they did inherit his love of fine architecture. Interestingly enough, one of the principle Timurid builders was Gawhar Shad, Shah Rukh's wife, who was responsible for a magnificent mosque at Meshed (built between 1405 and 1418) and a mosque-madrasah-mausoleum complex in Herat (1417-1437). Unfortunately, these structures are mostly in ruins today, largely as a result of war and earthquakes over the last two centuries. As can be imagined, the transition of the Timurid capital to Herat also moved the architectural focus from Samarkand to that city. However, the Timurids still continued to build in their founder's capital, especially Ulugh Beg, who was governor of the city under his father, Shah Rukh.

The preponderence of elaborate decoration on Timurid monuments, much of it involving various pottery techniques, especially glazed tilework, reflects the advances made in this artform during this period. "The old use of lead glazes which oxidized quickly, from pre-Mongolian times was replaced by durable glazes stained with colouring oxides.... A mosaic design of single-coloured tiles had the advantage of being simple to produce, but the ornamental design was limited to geometrical patterns based on the shape of the tiles... This difficulty was then overcome by the technique of 'inlaid mosaic' composed of variously coloured small units." 18

Anyone who has had the opportunity to see these Timurid monuments in Samarkand can testify to the splendor that they possess, even after years of disrepair. The sheer size of them, as well as the extravagant manner in which they have been decorated, speaks of the desire of Timur and his successors to leave their impact upon the world. In his time, Timur tried to create an empire to rival that of his predecessor, Chingiz Khan, and, in doing so, to set himself up as the greatest Muslim ruler in the world at the time. His empire never did eclipse that of the Mongols and it did not last nearly as long as the Arab Empire had. However, he left an indelible imprint not only on Central Asia, but indeed upon much of the Near East. Today, long after the disappearance of the mountains of human skulls which he erected after a victorious battle, the other monuments he and his dynasty erected in the cities of Central Asia remain as testimonies of his greatness.

Building Style:

This dynasty's architectural legacy is rooted in its history as an expansive empire that drew on formalistic centrally planned, highly symmetrical, Persian architectural structures and typologies, while integrating reinterpreted architectural elements, mostly decorative, from Central Asia.

The madrasa-khanqah complex evolves to articulate the empire's approach to force and statecraft that looked to Islam for its unifying and propagandistic powers. Specific architectural devices, such as the elaborate system of squinch-net vaulting, were developed in Herat under the patronage of Shah Rukh's wife Gawharshad and have persisted in subsequent architectural periods of the Safavids, Mughals and Ottomans.

subdivision of style:

Architecture of the Timurid period can be divided into four periods, distinguished by each timeframe's ruler:

Under Timur(1370-1405):

Timur reiterated the success of his conquest and overthrow of the Ilkhanids by transferring the seat of government to Kish, where he was born, and renaming the city Shahr-i Sabz (or the Green City). By moving the capital away from Samarqand, over the Zarafshan Mountains, Timur articulated his connection to the steppe.

He began his building program with the erection of his palace Aqsaray, or the White Palace (1379-96). Today, only a shattered portal remains of what had been a glorious palatial structure with a 22-meter wide iwan flanked by bastions built of brick and embellished with the finest tile decorations. The palace is said to have displayed expansive surfaces covered with brick mosaic and smaller wall surfaces inlaid with elaborate multicolored tile panels executed in the cuerda seca technique and signed by Muhammed Yusuf from Tabriz.

Along with his palace, Timur supported the construction of a tomb over the grave of Sufi Shaykh Ahmad Yasavi.

Once Timur had established rule, articulated his steppe origin, he moved his capital back to the more convenient and established capital Samarqand. Here he began a fairly ambitious building program with the mosque Bibi Khanum. The mosque follows the Persian four-iwan plan popular since the twelfth century, but integrates a design innovation, dome chambers beyond the lateral iwans. With this modification to the Persian four-iwan plan, Timur expresses his embrace of Persian notions of rule and organization but with the addition of characteristics from throughout his empire. His empire was to be vast and all encompassing. According to the contemporary chronicler Sharaf al-Din 'Ali Yazdi masons from Iran and India were used.

Mausoleum architecture was well developed under Timur's reign. After his death in 1405, he was buried in the Gur-i Amir in Samarqand rather than in his hometown Shahr-i Sabz, as originally planned. His son Shah Rukh arranged Timur's burial.

Under Shah Rukh and his wife Gawharshad (1405-47)

Timur's conquest and establishment of the Timurid Empire was consolidated by his successor Shah Rukh. Shah Rukh looked to the Central Asian heartland of Khurasan and ruled his empire from Herat. With the empire consolidated he felt confident awarding rule over Transoxiana to his son Ulughbeg who was based in Samarqand; and Western Iran to his other son Ibrahim Sultan who ruled from Shiraz.

Architecturally speaking, the empire was unified in part through the madrasa system where education was used to introduce certain orthodox ideas about religion and governance and this new curriculum was articulated through architecture. The proliferation of the madrasa-khanqah complex under Shah Rukh's reign served to relate the learned class or Ulema and the Sufi contingent. For example, Ulughbeg in Samarqand commissioning of the royal madrasa and khanqah with their facades mirrored across the Registan (town square in Samarqand).

Shah Rukh and his wife Gawharshad were experimental patrons of architecture. They looked to the development of shrines to support Shi'ite communities; for example, through the patronage and restoration of the shrine of Imam Riza at Mashhad. For this construction and many that ensued they relied on the talents of architect Qavam al-Din Shirazi.

In Herat, Gawharshad ordered the erection of a large complex, designed by Qavam al-Din Shirazi. In this complex numerous architectural innovations are found. The mausoleum is the earliest example of the use of an elaborate system of squinch-net vaulting -- to compose a unified vertical composition. Squinch-net vaulting is the most important Timurid architectural innovation. And it appears to have evolved out of experiments with transverse vaulting over rectangular spaces. The spatial impact of this technique is the creation of open interior space through the minimization of supportive walls and piers.

Upon Shah Rukh's death in 1447, his son Ulughbeg took power but reigned for only two years before being murdered by his own son.

Under Sultan Husayn Bayqara and his confidant 'Alishir Nava'i (1470-1506)

Most remarkable of Timurid patrons, Husayn b. Mansur Bayqara (1470-1506) ruled Khurasan from Herat. In this period Herat was populated by the greatest of cultural minds and artistic spirits. The poet Abd al-Rahman Jami (1414-92) and the master of miniature painting Bihzad are but two examples of this time in Herat.

Together with his confidant Alishir Nava'i, Bayqara, is documented to have patronized 52 caravanserai; 20 mosques; 19 cisterns; 14 bridges; 10 khanqahs and related buildings; 9 baths; 5 soup kitchens; 4 madrasas; and one hospital.

Under the Timurids, rivals in western Iran -- the Qaraqoyunlu or Black Sheep (1380 - 1468) and the Aqqoyunlu or White Sheep (1378 - 1508)

While the Timurids dominated Eastern Iran and Khurasan, Western Iran was the domain of the Qaraqoyunlu and the Aqqoyunlu Turkomen Confederations who controlled lands from Eastern Anatolia to Northern Iraq through the fourteenth century. Although not active builders they did contribute a few buildings in principal centers such as Tabriz and Isfahan and Hisnkayfa. Timurid influence is very apparent in their architecture; for instance, with the bulbous dome and tile-work that decorates the tomb erected for Zayn al-Mirza at Hisnkayfa. Other examples of their approach to building include the Blue Mosque at their capital Tabriz, and the more resplendent Nasriyya Complex by Aqqoyunlu Uzun Hasan (1453-78). Under these rulers the region of Yazd continued to prosper.

significant characteristics of architecture:

influenced by: persian architecture and the architecture of middle asia
influences on: architectural periods of the Safavids, Mughals and Ottomans

main features:

architecture type:

notable structures:

structure , location and time period(century)
Abdullah al-Vahid Shrine Herat,  Herat Province, Afghanistan, 15th
Abdullah Ansari Shrine Complex Gazargah, Herat Province, Afghanistan, 15th
Abdullah b. Muawiyah Shrine  Herat,        Herat Province, Afghanistan, 15th
Abdullah Khan Kala Merv, Mary Province, Turkmenistan ,15th, 16th
Abu'l Qasim Shrine Herat, Herat Province, Afghanistan, 15th
Ahmad Yasawi Mausoleum Turkestan, Yuzhno Kazakhstan Oblast, Kazakhstan, 14th
Ahmad Yasawi M. Restoration  Turkestan, Yuzhno Kazakhstan Oblast, Kazakhstan, 14th, 20th
Al-Abyad Mosque Ramla, Central District Israel, 13th
Amir Burunduq Mausoleum Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Anonymous Mausoleum I Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Aq Saray Mausoleum Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Aq Saray Palace Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Aq Saray Palace Restoration Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 20th
Ark of Bukhara     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     7th, 18th
Askhab Mausolea     Merv, Mary Province     Turkmenistan     14th, 15th
Balkh Citadel     Balkh, Balkh Province     Afghanistan     14th, 15th
Bibi Khanum Mosque     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Chashma Ayub     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Chihil Sutun Mosque     Ziyaratgah, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Citadel of Herat     Herat, Herat Province     Afghanistan     13th, 14th, 15th
Dar al-Siyadah Complex     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Dar al-Siyadah Complex Restoration     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th, 20th
Dar al-Tilavah Complex     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Dar al-Tilavah Complex Restoration     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 20th
Dar al-Tilavah Complex: Gok Gunbad     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Dar al-Tilavah Complex: Gunbad-i Sayyidan     Shakhrisabz, Qashqadaryo Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Friday Mosque of Abarquh     Abarquh, Fars Province     Iran     14th, 15th
Friday Mosque of Semnan     Semnan, Semnan Province     Iran     11th, 15
Friday Mosque of Yazd     Yazd, Yazd Province     Iran     14th, 15th
Friday Mosque of Ziyaratgah     Ziyaratgah, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Gawhar Shad Madrasa and Mausoleum     Herat, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Gawhar Shad Musalla Complex     Herat, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Ghiyathiyya Madrasa     Khargird, Khorasan Province     Iran     15
Great Mosque of Herat     Herat, Herat Province     Afghanistan     13th, 15th
Hazrat Ali Shrine Complex     Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province     Afghanistan     15th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     14th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Bala-Sar Madrasa     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Dar al-Huffaz     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Gawhar Shad Mosque     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Madrasa Do Dar     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Imam Reza Shrine Complex: Parizad Madrasa     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Ishrat Khana Tomb     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Kalyan Ensemble     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     12th, 16th
Kalyan Mosque     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 16th
Khwaja Abu Nasr Parsa Shrine     Balkh, Balkh Province     Afghanistan     15th, 16th
Khwaja Aghacha Mausoleum     Balkh, Balkh Province     Afghanistan     15th
Khwaja Akhrar Ensemble     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 17th
Labi Hauz Ensemble     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 17th
Masjid-i Maidan     Kashan, Esfahan Province     Iran     15th
Masjid-i Shah of Mashad     Mashad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15
Mausoleum of 1361     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Mir Chaqmaq Mosque     Yazd, Yazd Province     Iran     15
Mulla Kalan Khanqah     Ziyaratgah, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Octagonal Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Qazizadeh Rumi Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Qusam Ibn Abbas Mosque and Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Registan Square     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 17th
Registan Square Restoration     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th, 17th, 20th
Ruhabad Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Saray Mulk Khanum Madrasa and Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Sayf al-Din Bakharzi Shrine     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Sayyid Subhan Quli Khan Madrasa     Balkh, Balkh Province     Afghanistan     17th
Shad-i Mulk Aqa Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Shah Cheragh Shrine Complex     Shiraz, Fars Province     Iran     14th
Shah Cheragh Shrine Complex Restoration     Shiraz, Fars Province     Iran     14th, 20th
Shah Nur ad-Din Ni'matullah Vali Shrine     Mahan, Kerman Province     Iran     15th, 17th, 19th
Shah-i Zinda Complex     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th, 15th
Shaykh Ahmad-i Jam Shrine Complex     Torbat-i Jam, Khorasan Province     Iran     13th, 14th, 15th
Shaykh Ishaq Safi Shrine     Ardabil, Ardabil Province     Iran     14, 15, 16, 17
Shaykh Zayn Al-Din Mausoleum     Taybad, Khorasan Province     Iran     15th
Shirin Beg Agha Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     14th
Tuman Aqa Complex     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Tuman Aqa Complex     Kuhsan, Herat Province     Afghanistan     15th
Ulugh Beg and 'Abd al-Razzaq Mausoleum     Ghazni, Ghazni Province     Afghanistan     15th
Ulugh Beg Madrasa     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Ulugh Beg Madrasa     Bukhara, Bukhara Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Ulugh Beg Observatory     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th
Ulugh Sultan Begum Mausoleum     Samarkand, Samarkand Province     Uzbekistan     15th


   1. Shah-i Zinda complex
          * Qusam ibn Abbas masjid (c.1460): #11C 50
          * Shad-i Mulk Aqa mausoleum (1371-1383): #14
          * Amir Husayn ibn Tughluq Tekin mausoleum (1376): #15
          * Amir Burunduq mausoleum (c.1390, c.1420): #16
          * Ahirin Bika Aqa mausoleum (1385-86): #17
          * Anonymous ("Ustad 'Alim") mausoleum (c.1385): #18
          * Anonymous ("Ulugh Sultan Begum") mausoleum (c.1385): #19
          * "Amirzadeh" mausoleum (1386): #20
          * Tuman Aqa mausoleum (1404-5): #21A
          * Tuman Aqa masjid (c.1404): #21B
          * 'Abd al-'Aziz dargah (gatehouse) (1435-36): #22
          * Anonymous ("Qazizadeh Rumi") mausoleum (c.1420): #23
          * Octagon mausoleum (first half of 15th century): #24
   2. Shrine of Qutb-i Chahardehum (mid-15th century): #25 51
   3. Shrine of Burkhan al-Din Sagarji ("Ruhabad") (c.1404): #26
   4. Saray Mulk Khanum madrasah and mausoleum (c.1397): #27
   5. Masjid-i Jami' ("Bibi Khanum") (1398-1405): #28
   6. Gur-i Amir madrasah (c.1400): #29A
   7. Gur-i Amir khanaqah (c.1400): #29B
   8. Gur-i Amir mausoleum (c.1404): #29C
   9. Ulugh Beg madrasah (1417-21): #30
  10. Ulugh Beg observatory (1420): #31
  11. 'Abdi Darun khanaqah (c.1430): #32
  12. Alikeh Kukeltash masjid (before 1439-40): #33 52
  13. Shrine of Chupan Ata (mid 15th century): #34
  14. 'Ishrat Khaneh mausoleum (c.1464): #35
  15. Aq Saray mausoleum (c.1470): #36
  16. Khvajeh Ahrar khanaqah (1490): #37



   1. caravansary: inn for travellers, merchants, beasts of burden.
   2. dado: the lower part of an interior wall, often ornamented.
   3. faience: a variety of glazed pottery, usually highly decorated.
   4. girikh (lit. "Persian knots"): geometric design.
   5. haft rangi (lit. "seven colors"): patterns of up to seven colors fired on tiles; also known as majolica or cuerda seca.
   6. hazarbaf (lit. "thousand weave"): allover patterns in brick, tile, or simulated brick.
   7. hypostyle: having a roof or ceiling resting upon rows of columns.
   8. ivan: open-fronted barrel-vaulted hall facing on a court or as facade feature.
   9. khanaqah: hospice or other structure for Sufi devotion.
  10. kufic: an angular script used in writing Arabic.
  11. madrasah: religous seminary.
  12. masjid: mosque.
  13. mihrab: arched niche indicating direction of Mecca.
  14. muqarnas: stalactite composition used in transition from polygon to circle.
  15. naskhi: a cursive script used in writing Arabic.
  16. qiblah: the direction of Mecca toward which prayer must be oriented.
  17. squinch: a small stone arch or series of arches used to form a zone of transition between a square or octagonal base and a circular dome.
  18. thuluth: a large cursive script used in writing Arabic.


1. Two good accounts of Timur's life: Harold Lamb, Tamerlane: The Earth Shaker (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publ. Co., 1928); Hilda Hookham, Tamburlaine the Conqueror (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962).
2. Wilfrid Blunt, The Golden Road to Samarkand (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973), 138.
3. Actually, historians are uncertain about Chingiz Khan's date of birth: two other possible dates are 1155 and 1167.
4. Marlowe, Tambulaine the Great, IV iv, cited in Blunt, 143.
5. For an English translation of Clavijo's memoirs, see Clements R. Markham, trans., Narrative of the Embassy of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to the Court of Timour, at Samarcand, A.D. 1403-6 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1859).
6. Cited in Blunt, 165.
7. In fact, his calculation of the length of the year was only out by one minute!
8. Blunt, 173.
9. For a more detailed account of the history of Samarkand, see Blunt.
10. The Samanids were the only Persian rulers in Transoxiana after the Arab conquest and prior to the Mongol conquest; all the other dynasties mentioned were Turkic.
11. The dates given indicate when Transoxiana came under the rule of each dynasty.
12. Edgar Knobloch, Beyond the Oxus: Archaeology, Art & Architecture of Central Asia (London: Eernest Benn Ltd., 1972), 107.
13. Cited in Blunt, 136.
14. Blunt, 143.
15. For a detailed description of Timurid architecture, see Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber, Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, Vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 44-217.
16. Blunt, 144.
17. Cited by Lisa Golombek, lecture, University of Victoria, Feb. 25, 1988.
18. Edgar Knobloch and Milos Hrbas, The Art of Central Asia (London: Paul Hamlyn, 1965), 20.
19. For a list of Timurid monuments still standing in Samarkand, see Appendix I.
20. The physical description of this structure, as well as the others dealt with in this paper, has been taken primarily from Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1.
21. For pictures of the Gur-i Amir, see Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 2, plates VI, 79-87, figure 27; V. Voronina, Architectural Monuments of Middle Asia: Bokhara, Samarkand (Leningrad: Aurora Publishers, 1969), plates 51-53; Knobloch and Hrbas, plates 78-80.
22. Cited in Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 263.
23. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 261.
24. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 261.
25. Blunt, 163.
26. Blunt, 258.
27. For pictures of the mosque, see Golombek and Wiber, Vol. 2, plates V, 66-78, figure 26; Voronina, plates 46-50; Knobloch and Hrbas, plates 76,77,81,82.
28. Here and elsewhere, approximate dates are given, since the inscriptions on the monuments employ the Islamic calendar, the years of which do not correspond directly to the years used with the Western calendar.
29. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 255.
30. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 259.
31. J.D. Ives, "Samarkand, Jewel of Central Soviet Asia," Canadian Geographic Journal, Vol. 82, No. 2 (1971), 73.
32. Cited in Blunt, 260.
33. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 259.
34. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 258.
35. For pictures of the Shah-i Zinda, see Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 2, plates I-IV, 17-59, figures 14-23; Voronina, plates 65-69,72-76; Knobloch and Hrbas, plates 56-75, 109.
36. Blunt, 260.
37. Knobloch, 114.
38. Cited in Knobloch, 114f.
39. For a complete list of structures in the Shah-i Zinda dating from the Timurid period, see Appendix I.
40. Knobloch, 122.
41. Voronina, 36.
42. For pictures of the madrasah, see Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 2, plates VII, 88-95, figures 28, 29; Voronina, plates 55-58; Knobloch and Hrbas, plates 83,89,90.
43. Cited in Blunt, 259.
44. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 263.
45. Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 265.
46. For pictures of the remains of the observatory, see Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 2, plate 96; Voronina, plate 79; for a reconstruction of the original structure, see Blunt, 166.
47. Cited in Golombek and Wiber, Vol. 1, 266f.
48. Source: Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 233-271.
49. Only those structures within the Shah-i Zinda which date from Timurid times are listed.
50. The number is that given by Golombek and Wilber in their catalogue of Timurid monuments in the aforementioned source.
51. This structure was actually destroyed in 1880, but I have included it since Golombek and Wilber do in their catalogue.
52. Again, this structure is no longer standing, but Golombek and Wilber include it in their catalogue.
53. #1,4,5,6,8,9,11,12,13,14,16 from Golombek and Wilber, Vol. 1, 469-471; #2,3,7,17 from Funk and Wagnall's Standard College Dictionary, Canadian Edition, 1978; #10,15,18 from class notes.


Blunt, Wilfrid. The Golden Road to Samarkand. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973.

Golombek, Lisa and Donald Wilber. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, Vol. 1 and 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Hookham, Hilda. Tamburlaine the Conqueror. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1962.

Ives, J.D. "Samarkand, Jewel of Central Soviet Asia," Canadian Geographic Journal, Vol. 82, No. 2 (1971), 71-75.

Knobloch, Edgar. Beyond the Oxus: Archaeology, Art & Architecture of Central Asia. London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1972.

Knobloch, Edgar and Milos Hrbas. The Art of Central Asia. London: Paul Hamlyn, 1965.

Lamb, Harold. Tamerlane: The Earth Shaker. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publ. Co., 1928.

Markham, Clements R., trans. Narrative of the Embassy of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to the Court of Timour, at Samarcand, A.D. 1403-6. London: Hakluyt Society, 1859.

Voronina, V. Architectural Monuments of Middle Asia: Bokhara, Samarkand. Leningrad: Aurora Publishers, 1969.

Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan Bloom. 1994. The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800. Yale University Press, 37 - 54.

Golombek, Lisa and Donald Wilber. 1988. The Timurid architecture of Iran and Turan Princeton University Press.

Thackston, W.M., selected and trans. 1989. A century of princes: sources on Timurid history and art. The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.


Post a Comment


architecturalhistories.blogspot or any other blogs in this architectural series (casestudies,theories, monographs, interviews, lectures, videos, books, magazines, standards, histories, supports, architects) does not host any of the files mentioned on this blog or on its own servers. in cases architecturalhistories.blogspot only points out to various links on the Internet that already exist and are uploaded by other websites or users there. To clarify more please feel free to contact the webmasters anytime or read more