Pai-I Kalyan Ensemble in Bukhara

Po-I Kalyan or "the foot of the Great " is sited at the foot of the great minaret Kalayn at the approach of the commercial street to the principal crossing of Shahristan. It became the central ensemble of Bukhara and formed the structures of the principal congregational mosque tj the south of the Ark were built in traditional style. They were rased , restored after fires and wars, and moved from place to place. The first of this structures was put up in 1121 by the Karakhanid ruler Arslan-khan and burnt out during the seizure of Bukhara by Ghenghizkhan. All that remained of the 12th century ensemble was the magnificent minaret that was erected before the main facade of Arslan-khan mosque in 1127.

At the close of the 13th century and turn of the 14th century another mosque built of bricks appeared on the site of the fire as excavations testify (S.N. Yurenev). Nevertheless, the fragility of the foundation resulted in its demolition. Finally , in the first half of the 15th century the mosque was rebuilt and exists to this day. A century later , as inscriptions bear witness, the interiors and main facade were rearranged together with the decoration. In 1535-1536 the splendid Mir-I Arab medresseh was erected opposite the mosque. Thus, the major Kosh ensemble of Bukhara . the principle forum of the “city among bazaars” , as Arabian geographers wrote, came into being. Trade , the state power , science and centre for worship all merged into one, drawing the attention of the masses with all forms of the art of building, that the monuments were arranged with. The most skilled masters were always assigned to serve religion , who applied the most advanced forms of art. Though the places of worship have forfeited their initial function with the times , they retain their intransient aesthetic value. They open up the way to cognition of the loftiest manifestations of human spirit in the art of building, that, to the fullest extent , reflects the level of architecture of the epoch.

Monuments of the Poi Kalyan ensemble.

The dominant of the ensemble is the Kalyan Minaret (Minara-i-Kalyan), that rises above the city in the form of vertical pillar. Its magnificence exceeds the bounds of its practical purpose: in order to call upon believers to offer prayers it sufficed to ascend to the roof of the minaret as was practiced in the initial years of Islam. Later, the towers of Roman sanctuaries , the bells of Christian churches , Zoroastrian "fire towers " and other vertical structures, whose diverse forms appeared among different peoples long before Islam, were used for this purpose. The word "minaret " comes of the Arabic “minora” that designates a place where something is burnt: such as lighting up beaconsfor mariners, among which were huge multisectional towers such as the famous Feross lighthouse that was erected to the height of 130 metres in the 3rd century B.C. The vertical form , that was adopted by peoples of many lands, was interpreted by Islamite architects not as a sign only for calling to prayers , but as a sign of the power of spiritual and secular rulers. In ensembles minarets played a conspicuous role from the point of view of architecture , forming the diversity of a city with unique silhouettes and marking the sites of major public complexes. The minarets of the Bukhara Oasis are pillar-shaped structures with a cubic foundation receding into the ground , with an octahedral socle, a cylindrical shaft crowned with a vault skylight hanging above the shaft , and a cupola.

In his posteriors amendments to "The History of Bukhara " Marshakhi recounts that at the turn of the century Arslan-khan issued an order to remove the minaret of the old congregational mosque further away from the stronghold. When the work was completed, "someone bewitched it with an evil eye and it fell on the congregational mosque, demolishing two-thirds of the latter… ".

An inscription in turquoise majolica under the cornice of the skylight of Kalyan Minaret testifies that it was erected in 1127. Half a way up one can read the name of Arslan-khan. The name of Bako, the master who built the minaret, has also been found. Local residents indicate that the master was buried somewhere between houses of the neighboring block. Bako put up a minaret in the form of a circular-pillar brick tower, narrowing upwards, of 9 metres diameter at the base, six metres at the summit and 45.6 metres in height, that was characteristic of Mavara al-Nahr. There is a brick spiral staircase that twists up inside around the pillar and leads to the place of the skylight, a sextodecimal rotunda that leans upon projecting rows of masonry arranged in the form of a magnificent stalactite cornice (sharafa). The place of the cupola inside the skylight is encircled with a roundabout gallery in whose arches muezzins summoned worshippers to prayer. Executions were also carried out here: the last victim was thrown from the minaret in 1884.

The decoration imparts particular expressiveness to Kalyan : the exterior surface of the pillar is encircled with fourteen bands of ornamented inscriptions, alternating with figured brickwork arranged with unique patterns of double brickwork with carved framing, large rhombic in relief, chains of octapointed stars, Kufi characters , intertwining brick bands also known as pre-Arabian carved pieces.

During the Civil War in 1920 the pillar and summit of the minaret were seriously damaged by a shell, but already in 1923 the crowing cornice was restored by the Bukhara master Abdukadyr Bakiev. At the time of the devastating earthquake in 1976 the western part of the cornice fell dow and was restored according to photographs.

During Soviet times Kalyan Mosque (Maedjid-I kalyan) was literally risen from ruins. It is a jami mosque that is equal in size to Bibi-khanum Mosque in Samarkand. Although they are of the same type of building, they are absolutely different pieces of architecture. Monumental pylons serve as a support for the multidomed roofing of the galleries encircling the courtyard of Kalyan Mosque. The longitudinal axis of the courtyard ends up with a maksura, a portal and cupola building with a cruciform hall above which towers a massive blue cupola on a mosaic drum.

As afore-said, at the turn of the 16th century the entrance to Kalyan Mosque was rebuilt. The forms of the wonderful pillars and facing possess the distinguishing features of the new style of the Bukhara school of architecture. The restoration was dated on an inscription under the arch of the portal. At the end of a verse from the Koran there is the date of 902 hijra (1514-1515 A.D.) is inscribed. The wealth needed for this work came from the spoils Ubaidulla-khan took during his campaign against Ghujdawan in 1513.

In 1541 a marble board was fixed at the main entrance with the carved text of the order of Khan abd al-Aziz about releasing the inhabitance of Bukhara from payment of some of the taxes. Possibly, that is the time the grand mosaic mihrab in the main building of the mosque dates back to. It was built on the level of the floor that existed at that time – about one meter higher than the original building that had been erected in the 15th century. When the restored floors were opened, a panel of blue hexahedral slabs was discovered, that was framed with mosaic borders and a pattern of intertwining Convolvuli. This was characteristic of 15th century monuments. The name of master Bayazid Purani is inscribed on a mosaic band of the mihrab, while calligrapher Mir-sheikh-al-Purani put his name under the said decree of Abd al-Aziz-khan. If assuming that this is the name of one and the same master, then the mihrab was built in 1541.

The construction of Mir-I Arab Medresseh is ascribed to Sheikh Abdullah Yamani of Yemen, the spiritual mentor of early Sheibanids. In the construction of the medresseh he invested the wealth of Abdullah-khan (1512-1539) who received part of the income derived from selling 3,000 Persian prisoners who were Shiites and thus proclaimed faithless. Both "clients " were buried in the domed hall in the north, that was attached to the group of buildings at the entrance to the medresseh.

Mir-i Arab Medresseh is one of the finest monuments in Bukhara. It comprises the architecture of decorative vaults, "poeticized geometry " in architecture and applied art. The magnificent interiors of the darskhans and burial-vaults are arranged with intersecting arches that carry a cupola of lesser weight and diameter in contrast to the subdome square. To reduce the square to the circular base of the cupola, additional ribs of alabaster were placed so as to prop the arms of the main arches. The gaps were filled with herringbone brickwprk, forming shield-shape pentatives. The frame of intersecting arches formed a grid pattern The corners between the main arches were attached with pieces of a bent vault and were decorated with ganch stalactites. The planes of semi-vaults above the niches are covered with carved stelliform girikhs. For the first time decorative vaults appeared in the entrance-hall of Mir-I Arab Medresseh: girikhs with blue majolic strips and frames in the apertures of the terracotta background, repeated later in Abdullah-khan Medresseh. However, the most wonderful things are the pillars of the iwans in the courtyard, where mosaic medallions are framed with lacy ganch stalactites. Here the perfection of skill is displayed in grand style.

In this monument, that has undergone calamitous destruction in our days, restoration work concerned the upper part of the portal, the entire north wing of the main facade. The structures of the cupola and arcades of the courtyard were reinforced. Storks, who fly here from Egypt every year, make their nests on the cupolas. The last of the monuments of Po-I Kalyan ensemble is Amir Alim-khan, that is sited next to Mir-I Arab. It was erected at the turn of the 19th century in the form of three courtyards in violation of all canonic schemes: a public yard and those for dwelling and practical purposes. Since 1924 this monument is used as a public library. Its location in the centre of the city is quite appropriate and rightful for "Grand Bukhara " was always a centre of learning and possessed huge book depositories.

In Urgench and other towns and cities an Academy and House of Knowledge with big libraries of many volumes, hostels for visiting scholars and grants (nafaka) for their maintenance existed for charitable purposes. The library Khizanat al-khikma ( "a treasure-house of wisdom ") only remained in the recount of Abu Ali ibn Sina (980-1037) : "...Once I asked the Emir for permission to visit the depository abd read books in medicine. I received a pass and entered a building with many rooms, in each of which stood boxes with books. In one of the rooms there were Arabian manuscripts and poems, in another – works in the science of law. Every room was devoted to different fields of science. I looked through the list of works and asked for what I needed... .
Bukhara retained the significance of its cultural centre in the 19th century as well, as Demezon testified in 1833-1834. "The medresseh in Bukhara is famed throughout Turkestan. Students come to Khiva, Kokand, Gissar and even Samarkand from many Tatar regions... There are about 60 medressehs in Bukhara that are doing well more oe less well off ".

According to a 10th century description the library was a structure with many chambers: an entrance-hall led to a long arched hall connected with smalled premises where cupboards with books stood along the walls. A catalogue, attendants and study rooms were also accommodated there; in other rooms there were works in various fields of science.

It is known that a library was built in Bukhara in 1540-1550, "having no eqaul " the world over. The librarian was Mir Abid Khussani, a splendid calligrapher, who had a perfect command of nast-a liq and raikhani hand, a brilliant miniature-painter and incrustator, which information can be found in the anthology of Khasan Nisari "Muzakhir al-Akhbad ".