Samarqand’s Congregational Mosque of Bibi Khanum as a Representation of Timurid Legitimacy and Rulership

Keywords: Timurid architecture, mosque, Samarqand, Ilkhanid, Yuan, Ming


The Bibi Khanum Congregational Mosque is the largest Timurid monument in Samarqand. Commissioned by Timur himself after his military campaign in India in 1399, the architecture of the mosque can be interpreted as a visual representation of Timur’s ambitions to surpass the architectural achievements of the preceding Islamic dynasties. Striving for political legitimacy beyond the legacy of Chinggis Khan, Timur imitated and even exceeded the monumental scale of the architectural ensembles in the Ilkhanid capitals of Tabriz and Sultaniyya. In an attempt to ensure the continuity of the Timurid dynasty, Timur’s successors adopted Yuan iconography and visual vocabulary so as to forge an ancestral and artistic genealogy that directly related the Timurids with the Mongols via the aesthetic legacy of the Ilkhanids and the Yuan. Their cultural production thus secured the continuity of the Timurid royal patrons as just successors of Chinggis Khan.


Author Biography

Elena Paskaleva, Leiden University

Elena Paskaleva is Assistant Professor of Critical Heritage Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her current research focuses on the material culture of Central Asia, and in particular on the history and socio-political importance of Timurid architecture. She is the author of Silk Road Cities Documented Through Vintage Photographs, Prints and Postcards (Leiden: LUP, 2019), co-author and editor of the volumes Memory and Commemoration across Central Asia: Texts, Traditions and Practices, 10th-21st Centuries (Leiden Studies in Islam and Society, vol. 17: Brill, 2023) and Exchanges along the Silk Roads. Urbanism. Landscape. Architecture (UNESCO, 2023). Dr. Paskaleva has published widely on the restorations of Timurid architecture in present-day Uzbekistan. In 2014 she was an associate to the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. Currently, she is finalizing her monograph on the conservation of the Timurid dynastic mausoleum of Gur-i Amir in Samarqand.

How to Cite
Paskaleva, E. (2023). Samarqand’s Congregational Mosque of Bibi Khanum as a Representation of Timurid Legitimacy and Rulership. Manazir Journal, 5, 59–87.