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Registan in Samarkand

Registan in Samarkand is the monument of town-planning art of Central Asia of 15-17 centuries. It is the city square ensemble, during the rule of Timurid dynasty it was the main square of Samarkand. The development of existing ensemble was started in 17-th century. Registan includes three madrasahs with the rich mosaic decor, carved ceramic and marble decor. From the west the Ulugh Beg Madrasah is located (1417-20; 2 minarets were straightened in 1932, 1965). From the east, in the town-planning technique, which called 'Kosh' (that means - in mirror reflexion) with the Ulugh Beg Madrasah, - the Sher-Dor Madrasah ('The Tigers having': 1619-1635/36, architect Abdul-Dzhabbar, paintings Mohammed Abbas Samarkandi, main restorations 1926, 1961). And from the north – the Tilya-Kori Madrasah ("Gilded"; 1646/47-1659/60; main restorations 1939, 1970-75). [1]

Three Madrasahs of Registan in Samarkand are outstanding architectural monuments not only in the Central Asia, but also in the World architecture. The most refined of them is the Ulugh Beg Madrasah. It has embodied the architectural forms and methods, which have grown on the basis of ancient traditions of the Central Asian architecture, at the same time enriched by variety of achievements of the building technics and art of the adjacent countries. One can see there remarkable decorative glazed tilework, both in exterior and in interior of the building. The manufacturing of ceramic tiles was very laborious. The tiles are made out of special ceramic mass, called 'kashap'. A ceramist makes thin tiles first, and then covers them with glaze of different colors. Burnt in the potter's furnace, these tiles gain remarkable feature: they can be knifed; meanwhile glaze would not be chopped off then, but easily would be divided together with all body of tile. [2]

Two other madrasahs of Registan yield to Ulugh Beg Madrasah in refinement, however all three buildings together create a unique architectural ensemble. (see picture).

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417-20)

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah (see picture) has its imposing portal with lancet arch facing the square. The corners are flanked by minarets (see picture). Mosaic panel over the entrance arch is decorated by geometrical stylized ornaments. The square-shaped courtyard includes a mosque, lecture rooms and is fringed by the dormitory cells in which students lived (see picture). There are deep galleries along the axes. Originally the Ulugh Beg Madrasah was a two-storied building with four domed darskhonas (lecture room) at the corners.

The madrasah was one of the best clergy universities of the whole Moslem Orient of the 15th century
. Abdurakhman Djami, a prominent poet, scientist and philosopher studied there. Ulugbek himself gave lectures there. During Ulugbek's government the Madrasah was a centre of secular science.

Historical sources bear testimony that the Ulugh Beg Madrasah from its very beginning was conceived to be the main building of an ensemble of monumental constructions built by Ulugh Beg round the Registan. Ironically only the Ulugh Beg Madrasah has outlived its neighbors, and became a beginning of new, even more refine ensemble [3].

In 1417 the Ulugh Beg Madrasah was already under construction as it follows from the mosaic inscription in one of niches of the main portal. The building has been finished in 1420 as it is written in the form of a wide strip framing a portal. Thus for the whole construction 5-6 years were required. [4]

The first madrasah which is mentioned in historical sources of Central Asia was the madrasah, existed in Bukhara in 10-th century. It was burnt down in 937 in the massive fire. From madrasahs, which have remained up to now, the earliest is the Madrasah of Ulugh Beg in Bukhara, built in 1417, then follows the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Samarkand and at conclusion the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Ghujdawan, built 1423/24. Numerous madrasahs in Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva and other cities, erected the next centuries, in essence, replicated the pattern of the buildings initiated by Ulugh Beg, supposing variations only in details. [5]

Ulugh Beg set out to turn his cities into intellectual centers. He invited numerous Islamic astronomers and mathematicians to teach in his madrasahs. His own particular interests concentrated on astronomy, and in 1428 he built an enormous observatory in Samarkand. However life of Ulugh Beg paralleled the life of another prominent figure of the 15-th century - Sheikh Uboydullo Khodja Ahror (1404-1490). Uboydullo Ahror was quite young man when he became a head of the Sufi order Naqshbandiyya. He noticeably improved doctrine, and in the middle of the 15th c. he became a leader of Muslim clergy of all the State that was inherited from Timur, where during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Naqshabandiya was the dominant Sufi order. Using his important position Khoja Ahrar became powerful political broker. There is opinion that Khodja Ahror opposed the secular education in madrasahs. After Ulgh Begh's death he moved his residency from Tashkent to Samarkand (in 1451), where in the rest of his life he had enormous influence in spiritual and temporal power. Ulugh Beg's death and the strengthening of the clergy power in the state put an end to the astronomical work at Samarkand.
Perhaps the Madrasah of Ulugh Beg in Bukhara built almost at the same time with his madrasah in Samarkand is the witness of inceptive confrontation between Ulugh Beg and religious opposition of Nakshbandiya, whose center was in Bukhara. At least an inscription entwined with astral elements of decor, which predominates in ornamental finishing of the main entrance of the madrasah, throws down a challenge. It says: "Pursuit of knowledge is the duty of each follower of Islam, man and woman". They say there was another inscription, lost in renovation in the 16-th century, "Let the doors of God's blessing will open over a circle of peoples, versed in the book wisdom". [6]

The Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1635/36)

The tendency of the age of decadence

During Shaybanid rule, and even more under the Ashtarkhanids (also known as Astrakhanids, Tuquy-Timurids, or Janids) who succeeded them during the 1600s, Central Asia experienced a decline in prosperity compared with the preceding Timurid period, in part because of a marked reduction in the transcontinental caravan trade following the opening of new oceanic trade routes. [7]

Nevertheless during the reign of Imam Quli-khan (1611-1642), the strongest khan of the Ashtarkhanid dynasty, Registan got a new significant gain. The rulers of Janid dynasty was alien to powerful Shaibanid feudal lords, therefore Imam Quli-khan hardly retained his power by force. The devotion to Islam tradition in the state under Janid dynasty was pale before the eagerness of the time of prominent Shaibanid khans. These two important peculiarities of the power were soon expressed in remarkable architecture tendency. In 1619 Yalantush-biy who virtually independently governed Samarkand had begun the construction of grand madrasah (the Sher-Dor Madrasah) (see picture). The rich colored finishing and the depiction of sun, tigers and antelopes tell of a pioneering approach to artistic expression, unique and forbidden in the Islamic world (see picture). In three years in Bukhara Nadir Divan-begi followed Yalantush-biy by construction of his own revolutionary structure Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah where the entrance portal has depictions of 2 phoenix birds, 2 misshapen white deer and a "man-in-the-sun" face. [8]

The Sher-Dor madrasah was founded in 1619 and it is finished only in 1635/36 year. These dates are known due to the inscriptions decorating the main portal of the madrasah. The Sher-Dor madrasah is built on a place of ruins of Khanaka of Ulugh Beg. By its architectural forms the Sher Dor madrasah basically proved to be a replica of the Ulugh Beg madrasah. [9] (see picture)

The Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646/47-1659/60)

Ten years after, in 1646, Yalantush-biy has founded new grandiose construction on the Registan square, it became the Tilya-Kori Madrasah, the main facade of which filled the north side of the square (see picture). Tilya-Kori Madrasah also accommodated the new city cathedral mosque of Samarkand as the mosque of Bibi Khanym has become unfit for use by then. In the planning of Tilya-Kori was assigned the courtyard, capable to accommodate thousands of worshipers (see picture). Also whole western part of the construction has been devoted to the mosque premises. Thereby western part of the courtyard is occupied by the mosque with the splendid portal in middle (see picture). Behind the portal the domed main chamber (with embossed mihrab (see picture) and minbar - a pulpit for the imam) is located, crosswise in the plan. Relatively not long ago restored outer cupola of main chamber now towers on cylindrical drum as aforetime (see picture). [10]

Restoration works

The systematic restoration works on the Registan heritage were started from the beginning of the twentieth years of 20 century. Many works on strengthening of supporting construction and decor were done on this period of the time. Especially remarkable was the long-term works on straightening of a northeast minaret of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah. The minaret as a result of seismic fluctuations has bent and threatened with falling. After detailed studying of a design of the minaret and its bases, restorers were able (by means of complex devices and machineries) to straighten the minaret and put it in initial position, without having broken unique work of ancient architects (see picture).

Another remarkable restoration was undertaken in 1025, when was restored the sagged and ready to fail huge arch of of the main portal of the Sher Dor Madrassah. At the same time the mosaic with the image of lions on tympan of the main portal has been strengthened (see picture).

Restoration works on monuments of Registan was not suspended even in days of the Second World War. During years of war, major repairs of a southern portal of the Ulugh Beg madrasah and some other works are made. [11]

In Post-Soviet time Uzbekistan gives a great attention to the restoration of monuments of architecture on the Registan square. Restoration works proceed.

Other buildings

To the east of Tillya-Kori Madrasah the mausoleum of Shaybanids, 15 c., is located (see picture). The founder of Shaybanid power was Muhammad Shaybani - grandson of Abu'l Khair. In 1500, with the backing of the Chaghataite Khanate, then based in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Muhammad Shaybani has conquered Samarkand and Bukhara from their last Timurid rulers. The founder of the dynasty then turned on his benefactors and in 1503 took Tashkent. He captured Khiva in 1506 and in 1507 he swooped down on Merv (Turkmenistan), eastern Persia, and western Afghanistan. The Shaybanids stopped the advance of the Safavids, who in 1502 had defeated the Akkoyunlu (Iran). Muhammad Shaybani was a leader of nomadic Uzbeks. During the ensuing years they substantially settled down in oases of Central Asia. The Uzbek invasion of 15 c. was the last component of the today's Uzbek nation ethnogeny.

Registan - Mausoleum of Shaybanids       Registan - Chorsu

Straight behind Sher-Dor the ancient trading dome Chorsu is situated
(see picture). Now it is well restored.


1 - «Популярная художественная энциклопедия.» Под ред. Полевого В.М.; М.: Издательство "Советская энциклопедия", 1986.
2. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр 18, 19
3. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр 6, 11
4. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр 13
5. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр 17
6. Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara 
7. History of Central Asia 
8. Impact of Nadir Divan-begi 
9. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр 25
10. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр. 31, 33
11. Регистан в Самарканде "Registan in Samarkand", Борис Веймарн, Издательство: Академия архитектуры СССР, 1946 г. стр. 36

© 2005-
Registan of Samarkand

Registan - Ulugbek Madrasah

Registan - Ulugbek Madrasah

Registan - Sher-Dor


Registan - Tillya-Kori

Tillya-Kori Mosque



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