It is a part of the Poi-Kalon ensemble and is located on the Kosh* principle opposite the Miri-Arab Madrasah. The mosques started to be built in Bukhara soon after the Arab invasion in 709. The first mosque was built in 712, on the territory of the Ark citadel. However, with the subsequent Islamisation of the population, this mosque became too small, so in 770 a new, larger mosque was built outside the citadel. In the 10th century, this mosque collapsed during Friday prayers: countless people died so that the streets of Bukhara seemed empty. As a result, the mosque was rebuilt and destroyed several times, whether as a result of wars, fire, or mistakes in construction.

Bukhara Kalon mosque with minaret

The Kosh Principle:
in classical Central Asian architecture two buildings located on the same axis and facing opposite each other

Therefore, at the beginning of the 12th century a new big mosque was built by the order of the ruler Arslan-khan, and next to it – the Kalon minaret. This mosque existed until the Mongol invasion in 1220 when the minaret was spared, and the mosque was burnt down by conquerors. It is rumoured that Genghis Khan considered the mosque a palace of the ruling family because of its size.

As a result, the ruins remained untouched for over 200 years. It was the time of the Timurids (14-15 c.) that the construction of a new mosque began, but it is impossible to trace the extent of the work done. The construction was finished only in the 16th century during the time of the next rulers, Sheybanids. But it shows elements typical of Timurid architecture.

Bukhara Kalon mosque

view and construction of kalon mosque

The external dimensions of the Kalon Mosque are about 127 metres by 78 metres, which is about by a quarter of the size smaller than that of the Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Nevertheless, the mosque could accommodate up to 10,000 people. The inner courtyard is about 78 metres by 39 metres and is thus built in a 2:1 ratio. The inner courtyard is surrounded by an arched gallery covered with a roof consisting of 288 saucer domes, which are only visible from above. The arched gallery is supported by 208 columns. The decoration consists of a variety of geometric and vegetal designs on majolica, mosaic and glazed terracotta.

kalon mosque today

The mosque is still used today for prayers: however, only part of the building is used for this purpose, so the mosque is open to the public. You do not have to take off your shoes during your visit. Only on Fridays, more people participate in the prayers, so the mosque is closed to visitors for two hours (from 12.00 to 14.00).

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