It is a part of the Poi-Kalon ensemble and is located on the Kosh* principle opposite the Miri-Arab Madrasah. 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. With the subsequent Islamization of the population, this mosque became too small; a new, more prominent mosque was built outside the fortress in 770. 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 due to wars, fire or mistakes in construction.
*The Kosh Principle:
in classical Central Asian architecture two buildings located on the same axis and facing opposite each other
Therefore, in the 12th century, a new big mosque was built by the ruler Arslan-khan, next to it – the Kalon minaret. This mosque existed until the Mongol invasion in 1220 when the minaret was preserved, and conquerors burned down the mosque. It is rumoured that Genghis Khan considered the mosque a palace of the ruling family because of its size, which he ordered to destroy. 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 structure was finished only in the 16th century during the subsequent rulers, Sheybanids. But it shows elements typical of Timurid architecture.
view and construction of kalon mosque
The external dimensions of the Kalon Mosque are about 127 by 78 metres, which is about by a quarter more minor than the Bibi-Khanum Mosque in Samarkand. Nevertheless, the mosque could accommodate up to 10,000 people. The inner courtyard is about 78 by 39 metres, built in a 2:1 ratio. The inner courtyard is surrounded by an arched gallery covered with a roof consisting of 288 saucer domes, only visible from above. Two hundred eight columns support the arched gallery. The decoration consists of various geometric and vegetal designs on majolica, mosaic and glazed terracotta.
kalon mosque today
The mosque is still active for prayers: however, only part of the building is used for this purpose. You do not have to take off your shoes during your visit. More people participate in the prayers only on Fridays, so the mosque is closed to visitors for two hours (from 12.00 to 14.00).