For over eight centuries, the Kalon Minaret has been rising above the ancient Bukhara, without which the architectural appearance of the city is difficult to imagine. The minaret largely determines the silhouette of the city. This is quite understandable, because it can be seen from far away, no matter from which side we approach Bukhara.
The Kalon Minaret (“Great Minaret”) became the main symbol of St. Bukhara. For a thousand years this sacred tower has dominated Bukhara and proclaimed the greatness of the Islamic faith.
At the foot of the minaret there is the central ensemble of Bukhara – Poi-Kalon (“At the foot of the Great “), which includes the Kalon Mosque (XV – XVI centuries), the Miri-Arab Madrasah (XVI century) and the Amir-Alim-Khan Madrasah (early XX century).
The Kalon minaret replaced the first minaret of Bukhara, which according to the information of al-Narshahi was built in 918 – 919 and dismantled in the 1120s by order of the Karakhanids Arslan-Khan. Many legends are connected with the minaret of Arslan-Khan, the top of which is said to be on the plain of Samarkand.
The creator of the architectural masterpiece, “the pearl of the medieval east”, is the Ustod (master) Baqi. His name is linked to a wonderful legend about a certain architect who did not spare his life to preserve the secret of minaret construction and pass it on to his students.
At the same time, the Poi-Kalon ensemble is one of the most important central squares between the main gardens of Kalon Jome Mosque (the Mosque Cathedral) and the Miri-Arab Madrasah. On the third side, the view of the square is enclosed by a minaret and a vaulted library hall.
The Kalon minaret was built in 1127 by the Karakhanids Arslan-Khan, after the old minaret, which was near the walls of the citadel, was buried and the mosque of the cathedral was moved to the city limits.
The new minaret was built entirely of fired bricks with a fine bond. It has the shape of a 45.5 metre high round tower with a diameter of 9 metres at the base and 6 metres at the top.
The surface of the minaret is decorated with 12 strips of geometric ornaments, one part of which contains Kufi scriptures. The minaret shows the year of construction – 1127 and the name of the architect – Baqi.
According to the legend, Baqi, after laying the foundations of the minaret, suddenly “disappeared” and only reappeared when the solution hardened. He feared that the Khan would rush the construction and it would lead to the collapse of the minaret, as happened in 1121.
Inside the tower there is a spiral staircase with 104 steps, at the top there is a lantern with 16 arches decorated with stalactites. In the past, the upper part of the minaret was located above the lantern, after its loss a modern superstructure was built here.
The upper part of the Kalon minaret was damaged during the artillery fire and aerial bombardment of Bukhara by the Red Army in 1920 and was restored as a result of restoration works.
The Kalon Minaret has another name – “Tower of Death”, which is connected with the fact that it was a place of execution – from its upper platform people were thrown to their death.
The Kalon Minaret was given an original shape, which was later repeatedly imitated. Above the lantern there was probably a second limb of which only the base of the central pivot remained.
The Kalon Minaret is strict, majestic and well-balanced in its monumental, multiple heavy forms. At the same time, it is clearly arranged and filigree in every detail. Its proportions and divisions withstood all earthquakes that destroyed more than one high-rise building in Uzbekistan.
The secret of its stability lies in the empirically correct proportions of its parts, in the construction of its foundations and in the high quality of its masonry. The Kalon Minaret is connected by a bridge to the roof of the Kalon Jome Mosque (the mosque cathedral), from where you can enter the interior of the minaret and climb up a narrow and steep brick spiral staircase with 105 steps to the rotunda.
From the rotunda of the minaret one has a magnificent view of Bukhara, the remains of its walls.