Gur Emir Mausoleum in Samarkand
The Gur-Emir-Mausoleum (Persian گور امیر; Uzbek Go’ri Amir, from gur, “grave”, and the Emir, “sovereign”, “ruler”) in the Uzbek city
Samarkand is the tomb of Tamerlane, some members of his family and other persons in the environment of the ruler, including
Ulugh Beg, Shah Rukh and Mir Said Berke – the teacher of Tamerlane.
It was built in 1403/04 and is regarded as the finest example of art of building of the Timurid’s epoch, with its azure ribbed dome on a high Tambour.
It occupies an important place in the history of Persian-Mongolian Architecture as the precursor and model for later great Mughal architecture tombs, including Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and
the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Timur’s descendants, the ruling Mughal dynasty of North India.
Initial part of the complex was built at the end of the 14-th century to the orders of Muhammad Sultan Tamerlane’s heir apparent and his beloved grandson. The construction of mausoleum (Qubba) itself began in 1403 after the sudden death of Muhammad Sultan. The Mausoleum was completed before Timur’s death on 14-th February 1405, so it must be either end of 1404, or the beginning of 1405. His own resting place, Timur had prepared in his home city Schahr-i Sabs near to his Ak-Saray palace. However, when Timur died in 1405 on campaign on his military expedition to China, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in, so he was buried here instead. Later Ulugh Beg, another grandson of Tamerlane, had completed the complex in whole. Under the aegis of Ulugh Beg in 1434
Ivans and minarets was built. During his reign the mausoleum became the family crypt of the Timurid Dynasty.
Unfortunately, since the end of 17-th century the long period of decline of Samarkand has begun. The city has lost the status of capital which has been transferred to Bukhara. The great Silk Road bypassed the city, meanwhile great historical monuments stood empty and forgotten. Only after the Second World War extensive restoration work in Gur-Emir has begun. In the 1950s the dome, main portal and minarets were refurbished. By that time majolica tiles mostly fell away. The 1970s, was followed by the restoration of the interior. Neither the Madrasah nor the Khanaka of initial Muhammad Sultan’s complex were reconstructed. With the resurgence of the interest to Tamerlane after the founding of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 1991 it intensified the care of his places of worship.
In 1740, king Nader Shah of the Afsharid Empire tired to carry away Tamerlane’s sarcophagus. Nader idolized Timur. He imitated Timur’s military prowess and, later in his reign, Timur’s cruelty, but
in the process of removal the sarcophagus broke in two. This was interpreted as a bad omen. His advisers urged him to leave the stone to its rightful place. Tamerlane’s tomb was opened shortly before the German Invasion into the Soviet Union, although the inscription on his tomb threatens great misfortune to any of his rest breaker. Exhumation of Timur in 1941 was made under the direction of Soviet scientist and anthropologist Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gerasimov who was able to reconstruct Tamerlane’s facial features from his skull, and it was also confirmed that he was 172 cm in height and would have walked with a pronounced limp. Also it is rumoured that Soviet Union won a victory in the Battle of Stalingrad owing to the re-burial of Timur’s bones, according to Muslim rites in 1942.
All the extensions of Ulugh Beg’s time are attributed to the architect Muhammad ibn Mahmud from Isfahan. Through the main portal (Ivan) of 12,07 m height one can enter in courtyard. On the right on the courtyard once the Khanaka, and on the left the Madrasah were located. Now only remnants of the foundations of these former buildings exist.
The courtyard measures are 29.5 x 30.4 m. Across the courtyard contrariwise the main portal one can see the second Ivan with the Pischtak of 11.8 m high, which framed the real entrance into Mausoleum together with decorated arcade-walls that adjoined to the Pishtak from the left and the right.
At present time only two of four minarets rise a bit behind at flanks of the second Pishtak. The entrance portals of Gur-Emir Ensemble are richly decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics.
Outwardly the Mausoleum itself is a one-cupola building. It is famous for its simplicity of construction and for its solemn monumentality of appearance. It is an octahedral building crowned by an azure fluted dome. The exterior decoration of the walls consists of the blue, light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical and epigraphic ornaments against a background of terracotta bricks. The dome (diameter – 15 m, height – 12.5 m ) is of a bright blue color with deep rosettes and white spots. Heavy ribbed fluting gives an amazing expressiveness to the cupola.
Inwardly the mausoleum appears as a large, high chamber with deep niches at the sides and diverse decoration. The interior of the mausoleum has a square plan enlarged with four niches that created a cross-shaped space. One can see that the internal dome is neither by the form nor by the height corresponds to the dome from outside. Reason for this is that between inner ceiling and outer cupola is the hollow space.
The interior is lavishly decorated. The lower part of the walls covered by onyx slabs composed as one panel. Each of these slabs is decorated with refined paintings. Above the panel there is a marble stalactite cornice. Large expanses of the walls are decorated with painted plaster; the arches and the internal dome are ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches, gilded and painted.
The ornate carved headstones in the inner room of the mausoleum merely indicate the location of the actual tombs in a crypt directly underneath the main chamber.
Under Ulugh Beg’s government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over the grave of Tamerlane. Formerly this stone had been used at a place of worship in the Chinese emperor’s palace, then as the throne of Duwa (a descendant of Genghis Khan) in Chagatay Khanate. Next to Tamerlane’s grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and Shah Rukh and also of grandsons – Muhammad Sultan and Ulugh Beg. Tamerlane’s spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here.
The way to the actual burial place, under the main chamber, passes not via the doorway-ivan, but is vented on one side of the gallery.
Some consider the Gur-e Amir (Gur Emir), Ruhabad mausoleum and Aksaray mausoleum as a combined ensemble because of their closeness.
Ruhabad (14th c.) is a small mausoleum and is said to contain a hair of Prophet Muhammad. The one storey madrasah now accommodates craftsmens’ shops. There is a functioning mosque next door to the madrasah. All three combine into one
The Aksaray mausoleum (15th c.), unrestored, located on a quiet street behind Gur-e Amir (Gur Emir).