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Propaganda and architecture in Mongolian and Timurid times

 Bibi-Khanum mosque. Samarkand
Bibi-Khanum mosque. Samarkand.
 Behzâd. The building of the Khawarnaq
Behzâd. The building of the Khawarnaq.

by Michele Bernardini, Professor at Naples University l’Orientale.

In the last years of his life and in coincidence with his most impressive military enterprises, Timur (Tamerlane) was also the protagonist of a vast program of monumental reconstruction of the city of Samarqand. Clavijo describes the brutal methods employed and Persian sources, highly laudatory, celebrate these constructions without hiding certain incidents like the murder of an architect and various superintendents. Timur’s architectural dream was the result of intense international polemic, where the conqueror from Central Asia had been strongly criticized for living in houses “made of ropes”.

Thus the Mamlouks opposed their stone fortifications to the raw bricks of the buildings of Samarqand. The great impetus for the reconstruction of Samarqand is verified after the Indian campaign of 1398-1399. The Persian sources emphasize the fact that on the return of Timur in Transoxiana he immediately built a large mosque in Samarqand on the style of that of Firuzshah Tughlaq. This true trophy of its apogee, is a very interesting object of study.

The conference seeks from a historical and literary perspective to analyze an epoch and the true personality of Timur obsessed with a need for legitimation in which architecture played an important role.