Kul Sharif Mosque is the main mosque of the Republic of Tatarstan and one of the largest in Europe. This symbol of Kazan is located in the very «heart» of the city – in the Kazan Kremlin Complex. The magnificent mosque is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The building bears the name of Seid Kul Sharif, who was the defender of the city during the Siege of Kazan in 1552 by the troops of Ivan the Terrible. The mosque burned down, and Seid Kul Sharif, along with his numerous students, died in a fierce battle. The mosque was restored only after four centuries and opened by Kazan’s 1000th anniversary.
The new Kul Sharif Mosque is one of the main attractions of Kazan, a symbol of the revival of the Tatar culture. Its architecture and rich interior decoration, filled with deep meaning, delight guests of the city. The mosque houses the Museum of Islamic Culture, where you can learn about the emergence of Islam and its modern development in the territory of Tatarstan. This is the only such exhibition in Russia.
The modern Kul-Sharif Mosque, the main religious attraction of the Kazan Kremlin, is not a historical building. More than 400 years ago, a legendary many-minaret Kul Sharif Mosque decorated the capital of Kazan Khanate. It was headed by Seid Kul Sharif, who in the 16th century turned the mosque into a center of education, science and religion of the Middle Volga. In 1552, Tsar Ivan the Terrible captured the city; the mosque was destroyed and burned down along with other buildings of the Kazan Kremlin. And only a glorious memory of a magnificent structure was left on the Tatar land.
Over the centuries, from 1996 to 2005, the reconstruction of mosque was carried out in accordance to barely preserved drawings of the previous wooden building. The main hall holds books with surnames of all people who donated money for construction of the Mosque. Qur’an gift editions in various languages are also kept there. In 2005, just in time for the 1000th anniversary of Kazan, the Kul Sharif Mosque was opened.
Who was Seid Kul Sharif?
Kul Sharif was the Imam of Kazan Khanate and the hero of the Tatars, who lived in the 16th century. He was a warrior, poet and philosopher, descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He lived in the time, when the Kazan Khanate was in a tragic situation. Kul Sharif participated in some diplomatic missions on behalf of Kazan khans during negotiations with Moscow. However, negotiations only delayed the attack of the Russian troops. And in October 1552, after a grueling siege, the Russians went on the offensive and broke through the defense of Kazan. The main battle took place near the walls of the mosque of the Khan’s Kremlin. Kul Sharif was one of the Kazan defense leaders. He organized a group of students and defended the Khan Palace. He was brutally killed during the battle. This is how tragically the outstanding personality of the entire era of the Kazan Khanate died.
Architecture / Mosque Interior
The modern mosque built of white stone with sky-blue domes is an architectural masterpiece. It harmoniously fits into the ensemble of the Kazan Kremlin Complex.
The mosque has eight minarets: four main, which are about 57 meters high, as well as two small and two pseudo-minarets at the corners of the main entrance portal. The dome of the building resembles a traditional “Kazan hat”, which the Khans used to wear. The crescents on the top of the minarets are pointed towards the city of Mecca, the direction a Muslim should face during the ritual prayer.
The interior of the mosque is striking in its beauty. Inside the building there are five floors. On three of them, there is the lobby of the main entrance with imam’s rooms, a prayer hall and a gallery-balcony for women. On the basement floor, which forms the stylobate of the building, there`s a female lobby and ablution rooms.
The Kul Sharif Mosque is decorated with a huge, weighing almost two tons, colored Czech chandelier, made according to the sketches of Tatarstan artists. Natural stones such as granite, marble of different colours, brought from the Urals were used to finish the interior. As a gift from the Iranian government, the mosque received traditional carpets that adorn the interior of 2000 square meters. Thus, architects wanted to combine different cultures in the interior that influenced Kazan.
All rooms and rooms are decorated with wood carvings, gilded details, stucco molding and gold embroidery. The windows have a characteristic elongated pointed shape with the symbolism of “rebirth” – tulips. Climbing the stairs decorated with real stained-glass windows, tourists will be able to see the male and female prayer halls in their rich decoration from above. In the center of the lobby, there is a model of the Kul-Sharif mosque, made of gold, silver and precious stones. The mosque complex includes the Mosque itself, Museum of Islamic Culture, a publishing office, and an imam’s office.
Kul Sharif Mosque was built in memory of the legendary mosque of the Kazan Khanate, which once impressed with its grandeur. The architects, restoring the mosque, tried not only to rehabilitate the lost integrity of the Kremlin, but also to show the world the commonwealth of the coexistence of the two religions on the same land.
-According to one of the legends, the shape of the wooden mosque burned in fire, impressed the invaders so much, that it was decided to perpetuate the memory of it in the shape of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, built in honor of the capture of Kazan.
-Museum of Islamic Culture, located in two rooms, was opened a year after the official opening of the complex, in 2006.
-The mosque can fit 1,500 worshipers, and another 10,000 can accommodate in the square in front of it.
– An integral part of the complex is the building of the fire department.
Museum of Islamic Culture
The museum, located on the ground floor of the mosque, has its exposition in two rooms. The first is dedicated to the history of religion and prophets; here you can read books about the basics of Islam and an exhibition of items for prayer, see the layout of the Kaaba, historical manuscripts and publications of the Qur’an. The second room is dedicated to the history of Muslim culture of the Middle Volga region, and also contains an exposition of silver coins with Arabic script, books of Tatar religious figures and writers.
Museum working hours: daily, from 9:00 to 19:30 (ticket office until 19:00).
Rules for visiting the mosque
Entrance to the mosque is free for everyone. Women should cover their heads with a scarf (there are free wraps in front of the entrance).All visitors need to close their shoulders and knees.
Entering the mosque, please take off your shoes and leave them in a special place. You can also wear shoe covers on your feet. It`s not allowed to shout and speak loudly.
If you visit the mosque as a tourist, go to special viewing platforms in order not to interfere the worshipers.
How to get there
The main mosque of the Republic of Tatarstan is located on the territory of the Kazan Kremlin Complex.
Nearest Bus Stops — «Central Stadium», «ul. Baturina»;
Metro Station – «Kremlevskaya»
The working hours of the Kul Sharif mosque are from 9:00 to 18:00 (from 17:30 on exit).
Prayer break on Fridays – from 12:00 to 14:00.
This iconic landmark of Kazan can be visited during a sightseeing tour of the Kazan Kremlin.