- Bakhchisaray
- Khan Palace

- Scheme of Palace


Palace Square

Khan Mosque

Sarı Güzel Bath

Demir Qapı Portal

Divan Hall

Summer Arbour


Golden Fountain
"Fountain of Tears"
Living Rooms
Falcon Tower
Cemetery of Khans
Durbe of Dilara
- Giray dynasty
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- The Preserve
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Khan Palace in Bakhchisaray

the museum website


A view on the Smaller Khan Mosque from the Harem Court

The state religion of the Crimean Khanate was Sunni Islam of the Hanafi mazhab . The leader of the Crimean Muslim community was called mufti . He was an important figure both in religious and in political life of the country, as one of the duties of the mufti was to judge whether new legal acts corresponded with the doctrine and laws of Islam. The mufti of Crimea was subjected directly to the caliph (since 1517 this title of the supreme ruler of all Muslims belonged to Turkish sultans) and was independent of the khan administration. Official conclusions by the mufti were obligatory for all state persons without except for the khan. Cases are known when it was the mufti who dissolved disputes for the throne between members of the ruling dynasty. He tried their argue and defined which from two rivalries should ascend the throne – and the arguing candidates obeyed him.

Bakhchisaray was the centre of religious life of the Crimean Tatars. There were several medrese s (religious educational institutions, the oldest and well-known one was called Zıncırlı Medrese), aziz es (sacred tombs) and at least thirty mosques. The sphere of activity of religious authorities was not limited to divine services, they were also responsible for youth education, teaching children literacy in numerous mektebs (primary schools).

The portal of the Mosque. The inscription mentions Selamet II Giray who repaired the Mosque in the 1740s

A remarkable feature of religious life in Bakhchisaray and in Crimea in general was abundance of followers of Sufi teaching. Several Sufi (dervish) communities existed in Bakhchisaray. Members of these mystical circles earned to comprehend mysteries of being through mystic practices like special prayers. Sufi communities possessed several tekiye s or praying houses in Bakhchisaray. There were followers of Sufism among the Crimean khans as well, like f. ex. Mehmed IV Giray (1641-44; 1654-66) and Hacı Selim I Giray (1671-78; 1684-91; 1692-99; 1702-04).

Khan administration was unusually tolerant towards adherents of different faiths (quite an unique phenomenon in the world history of that epoch). The population of Crimea included, along with Muslims, groups of Greek, Armenian and Roman Christians, Qarays (or Karaites) and Jews. No facts of religious persecutions as state policy in the Crimean Khanate are known. On the contrary, some of the Crimean khans even rendered financial help to a Greek monastery located in the vicinity of the Qırq Yer fortress. All non-Muslim communities in Crimea had their own legal structures. Only the most grave crimes were tried in the Shari’at courts.  

The mihrab of the Smaller Khan Mosque

The main object in the Small Khan Mosque is mihrab or a niche in the southern wall. It is orientated towards the sacred city of Islam, Mecca. Praying people direct their looks onto mihrab during public worship. Stone-carved ornament in the upper part of the niche represents the way in which mediaeval Muslim theologists interpreted the structure of the Universe: seven differently ornamented levels correspond to the seven levels of heavens.


Seal of Suleyman in the Small Khan Mosque

A stained-glass window above the mihrab is decorated with a sign consisting of two imposed triangles. This sign is known in many cultures, and each of them interprets it in a different way. In traditions of Muslim peoples it is called "the Seal of Suleyman”. The Crimean Tatars used the Seal of Suleyman to decorate gravestones, windows of mosques, coins and jewellery.

© B.H.C.S.P. 2004
Texts © Oleksa Haiworonski, 2004