After his Indian campaign,
1399 decided to undertake the construction of a gigantic cathedral
in his new capital, Samarkand.
To this day the mosque known as the Bibi-Khanym still overawes in its size
The cupola of the main chamber is raised up to 40 m. The length of the outer
walls (see picture 1) is to 167 m. (182.63 yds.)
longways and 109 m (119.20 yds.) in width. The cupola of the main chamber
picture 2) is raised up to 40 m. (131.23 ft.).
When construction was completed in 1404 it gripped minds of many poets. The
Bibi-Khanym was compared to the beauty and brilliance of the Milky Way.
However, contemporaries of Tamerlane soon noticed that not long after the
mosque became a place of worship, the building began to collapse and fall
The original impulse of its creator was perhaps too impertinent, as he
attempted to realise what was at the time an almost unreal architectural
idea. But perhaps there was a more deep reason of its collapse. It is
commonly known that rulers often build temples in an attempt to please God.
The Bibi-Khanym might have been intended as a huge thank-offering by the
Emperor Timur after his successful Indian campaign. Or was it perhaps built
in atonement for his many sins? The capture of Delhi was remarkable for its
excessive cruelty. When Tamerlane over-ran
he left a trail of carnage all the way to
where he reduced the city to rubble and massacred 100,000 inhabitants. The
truth will always remain a mystery. At least it looks as if God rejected the
bloody offering, whatever kind it was. More plausibly the mosque almost
certainly began to collapse because it was built of mud-brick in the middle
of an earthquake zone, and its dome was too high to remain stable.
Until the end of 20 c. the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym (see
picture 3) was remained as a very good illustration of what the
said: "Pride leads to destruction and arrogance to downfall". It has
recently been rebuilt (see picture 4), but
there is no reason to be proud in any way, because History will never tire
of repeating its lessons. The reconstruction by the Government of
Uzbekistan has also
obliterated what little original work was left, and the Bibi Khanym you see
today is effectively a brand-new building.
As time has gone by, the reality of the mosque's construction has become
embroiled with a legend of the Architect's love for Timur's Chinese queen ,
Bibi-Khanym. Alas, romantic hopes are doomed to disappointment. There is no
trustworthy source for the tale that Tamerlane had a wife that was known by
the name Bibi-Khanym (which just means 'woman-woman' in
Persian). Tamerlane's senior wife, the powerful old woman Saray mulk
Khanym, in honour of whom the mosque was named, does not bring to mind the
beautiful heroine of this charming fairy tale. It is said that Saray mulk
Khanym managed the construction of another building opposite the Bibi-Khanym,
which by tradition is identified as the
Mausoleum of Bibi-Khanym (see picture 5).
at the foot of the Bibi-Khanym (see picture 6)
has changed little since 600 years ago.