Ancient Samarkand. Madrasah of Ulugh Beg. View of the Middle (Large) Niche and Sections of the Preserved Two-Storied Cells


This photograph of the inner courtyard facade of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72 under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire’s Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. In the center of Samarkand is the Registan ensemble, composed of three major examples of a madrasah (religious school). The oldest madrasah on Registan Square is named after the astronomer-king and grandson of Timur, Ulugh Beg (1393?-1449), who built it in 1417-20. This view shows the courtyard side of the great iwan (vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open) entrance arch, wracked by severe structural damage due in part to earthquakes. Above the central portal (bricked up) is a faience panel with a remarkably complex star pattern -- perhaps a reflection of Ulugh Beg’s fascination with astronomy. The walls of the iwan niche are surfaced with monumental geometric tile patterns. The corners of the niche have attached ceramic columns rising to the ruins of the arch vaulting. The arch is flanked by polychrome ceramic strips with intricate decorative figures. On either side of the iwan are remnants of a two-story arcade that contained rooms for scholars.

Subject Date

Publication Information

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Title in Original Language

Самаркандския древности. Медрессэ Улуг-Бек. Вид срединой (большой) ниши и части сохранившихся 2-х этажных келий

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : albumen


  • Illustration in: Turkestan Album, Archaeological Part, 1871-1872, part 1, volume 2, plate 111.

Last updated: September 30, 2016