The mosque is located in Solhat, which was the Crimean capital of the Mongolian Golden Horde Khans (Batu'ids) from 1238-1239 until the fifteenth century when the Giray Khans rose from among them to dominate the peninsula and moved the capital to Bakhchisaray. It adjoins the southern wall of a large madrasa, which was built in 1322-1323 by Inci-Bey Khatun, wife of the local governor.
Archaeological excavations lead by M. G. Kramarovsky of the State Hermitage between 1978 and 1983 show that the mosque was built at its current location at the turn of the sixteenth century incorporating the portal, mihrab, parts of the arcade and stone revetment from the original Özbeg Khan Mosque, which existed at an unknown location in Solhat. These findings invalidate the long-standing belief that the mosque was built before the madrasa in 1314, based on the date listed on the portal's inscription. The inscription announces that the mosque was completed with donations Abdulaziz ibn Ibrahim el Arbeli under the rule of Muhammad Özbeg Khan (1313-1341), the first Golden Horde ruler to accept Islam. The mosque itself, however, was preceded by at least two non-extant mosques known to have been built in Solhat; the first mosque of the city from 1263, and a second mosque built in 1287 as a gift from the Mamluk Sultan in Cairo to the growing Muslim community.
The new mosque of Özbeg Khan is aligned with qibla along the north south axis and consists of a rectangular, three-aisle prayer hall with a single minaret at its northeast corner. Its qibla wall abuts the southern wall of the madrasa. Measuring about thirteen and a half by seventeen and a half meters on the exterior, the prayer hall is covered with pitched roof that rests on the side walls and the prayer hall arcades. It is entered through the fourteenth century portal, which is centered on the northern elevation. The portal recess is crowned by a pointed arch with a flat tympanum that rests on four rows of muqarnas and is flanked by two embedded columns. The foundation inscription rings the portal recess in a single line above the arched entryway. The carved decorations and moldings of the portal frame have been largely effaced.
Inside, the prayer hall is divided into three aisles with two longitudinal arcades. The pointed arches of the arcade are carried on six octagonal columns with muqarnas capitals and are tied to each other and to the walls with wooden beams. The mihrab at the end of the central aisle, which was brought over from the original mosque, has a tall decorative frame with a muqarnas hood. Upper windows pierced into the side walls illuminate the interior and may have been pierced at a later date. The mosque was restored in 1990 by Tatar civic organizations and reopened for prayer. A wooden balcony was added to the minaret at this time.
Unlike the Özbeg Khan Mosque, which was rebuilt and restored to maintain its religious functions, the adjoining Inci-Bey Khatun Madrasa was abandoned as early as the fifteenth century and remains in ruins today. Archaeologists of the State Hermitage cleaned the remnants of the madrasa between 1978 and 1983 and unearthed a large number of silver coins in one of the rooms that date from 1310 to 1378.
Entered from a portal facing east and centered on a large rectangular courtyard, the madrasa is about twenty-nine meters wide and thirty one meters long on the exterior. Its courtyard is enveloped by seventeen vaulted student cells on three sides, interspersed with two small iwans (north and south) and a winter room. The western side of the courtyard was occupied by the large classroom iwan, flanked by two enclosed rooms used for study during the winter. The cells are preceded by a narrow arcade, which is interrupted by the iwans. A fountain and an absorbing well were excavated inside the courtyard. The tomb of Inci-Bey Khatun (d.1371), built into a cell along the north wing of the madrasa, also stands in ruins. There is no trace the marble tombstone that was recorded by archaeologist I. N. Borozdin in his 1925 expedition.
The madrasa, and the remaining segments of the 1314 mosque reflect the influence of contemporary building and decorative traditions of the Seljuk emirates in Anatolia.Sources
Aslanapa, Oktay. 1979. Kirim ve Kuzey Azerbaycan'da Türk Eserleri. Istanbul: Baha Matbaasi, 5-10.
Bowman, Inci. 1998. "Crimean Tatar Architecture." International Committee for Crimean Website. http://www.iccrimea.org/monuments/monuments.html
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Kramarovsky, Mark G. 2004. "The Art of Islamic Solkhat: Architecture, Ceramics, Jewellery." Unpublished paper presented at the International Symposium of Crimea, Caucasus and the Volga-Ural Region: Islamic Art and Architecture in the European Periphery. http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~turkinst/Abstracts-homep.word.doc
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Kramarovsky, Mark G. 2005. "The Golden Horde as Civilization." In The Golden Horde: History and Culture. St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum, 108-135. http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/04/2005/hm4_2_136.html
"The Crimean Sites". Taurical National University Website. http://www.ccssu.crimea.ua/eng/crimea/sights/
. [Accessed November 21, 2005]