Khan Palace in Bakhchisaray



The Big Mosque and the Central Square

Big Khan Mosque

A massive building of Biyuk Han Cami - the Big Khan Mosque - with its red-tiled roof and two harmonious minarets (each 28 m high) is the most noticeable construction in the khan residence. Its expressive silhouette substantially determines the general look of the Khan Palace architectural ensemble.

The Big Khan Mosque is remarkable due to many of its characteristics and features. It was the first construction built here when Sahib I Giray founded the Bakhchisaray Palace in 1532. It is known, that in the 17th century this mosque was called “the Mosque of Sahib Giray khan” in commemoration of the ruler (reigned in 1532-1551) who built the Bakhchisaray Palace.

A calligraphic inscription on the wall of the Mosque: "Blessed be the renowation by His Highness Qırım Giray Han"

As far as it is known, the Mosque had initially quite a different look than now: it was sheltered with some small and big domes (not with tiled roof like nowadays). In the middle of the 18th century Arabic calligraphic inscriptions were drawn on its western wall. Black letters and ligatures in green shields either quote verses from the Quran or mention Qırım Giray Han (1758-64) who repaired and adorned the Mosque.

Two minarets of the Big Khan Mosque are slim ridge-roofed towers pointing the sky with alems (bronze crescents). These minarets are fine works of Crimean Tatar architecture. Despite of their age, they still tower over the roofs of the Palace without any visible damages. A spiral staircase is arranged inside each minaret. Before public worship in the Mosque starts a special attendant muezzin goes up to the minaret balcony and sings azan , a loud melodic prayer, calling believers to gather to the Mosque.

Under the Soviet regime the Mosque was closed for the believers. Nowadays Muslims pray there again and azan sounds over Bakhchisaray just like in the times of the Khanate. 

Interior of the Mosque: mihrab (a niche in the southern wall), mimber (a wooden cathedra). From the right side: windows of the Khan Box

From inside the Mosque looks as a large hall with high columns. A wide balcony is attached to its three walls (except of southern). A part of the balcony arranged as a separate chamber and is called the Khan Box. It was a place for the Crimean sovereigns who attended divine services in the Mosque. The box is richly decorated with stained-glass windows, wall- and ceiling-paintings. This is the only place in the Palace where such a rare element of decor as glazed tile remained. In the past the inner walls of many chambers in the Palace were decorated with this kind of white-and-blue tiles.

şandırvan - a bassin with fountain for ritual ablutions

An abdezhane adjoins the Mosque from the East. It is a small house with a basin and a fountain ( şandırvan ) intended for ritual ablution. The yard by its eastern wall is empty now; but it is known that a medrese (a Muslim educational institution) was built there by Arslan Giray in the 1750s.

Texts © Oleksa Haiworonski, 2004