ʿAJAMĪ B. ABŪ BAKR, 6th/12th century architect under the Eldigüzid atabegs, founder of the Nakhchevan architectural school, ʿAǰamī’s name is connected with the erection of two mausoleums in the town of Naḵǰavān (Nakhchevan)—that of Yūsof b. Koṯayyer (the “Aṭābābā” mausoleum), and that of Moʾmena Ḵātūn (the “Atabek” mausoleum). These are the earliest monuments of Muslim architecture in medieval Nakhchevan; they are also among the earliest tower-shaped tombs and so are important for the study of that architectural type.

The mausoleum of Yūsof b. Koṯayyer is an octahedral building constructed of baked brick and roofed by a cupola with a tent-shaped pinnacle. In spite of the extreme simplicity of the forms of the mausoleum, the architect achieved a considerable decorative effect. The exterior surfaces of the mausoleum are distinguished by independent motifs of geometric ornamentation. On the eastern facet, above the entrance, appears the building inscription giving the name of the raʾīs (head of the shaikhs) buried here, as well as the date of the erection of the mausoleum, 657/1161.

The mausoleum of Moʾmena Ḵātūn is a centrally domed building of the tower type. The decahedral mausoleum, 25 m in height, consists of an upper chamber and a crypt. It was built by ʿAǰamī in 582/1186 for Moʾmena Ḵātūn, the first wife of the atabeg Moḥammad Jahān-Pahlavān. The twenty-five years which separate the building of the two mausoleums had a strong influence on the development of ʿAǰamī’s creative faculty and technique. The mausoleum of Moʾmena Ḵātūn surpasses in size and wealth of decoration that of Yūsof, and its architecture displays further development in the art of composition, architectural forms, and methods of ornamentation, especially by the use of inlays of glazed blue-green brick. The curtain walls are skillfully decorated; their slightly concave planes are finished with sharply outlined, stepped arches, the light and shade of which add to the effect of plastic expressiveness. The building inscriptions are on the eastern facet above the entrance. This mausoleum is regarded as an outstanding example of architecture in Azerbaijan. It has considerably influenced later monuments, such as the Gonbad-e Kabūd in Marāḡa.

ʿAǰamī designed the portal with two minarets near the mausoleum of Moʾmena Ḵātūn, attested in photographs and drawings of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is also presumed that ʿAǰamī built the Friday mosque in Nakhchevan (not preserved), which formed part of the complex including the mausoleum and the portal.

Bibliography : L. K. Bretanitskiĭ, “K voprosu o nakhichevanskoĭ arkhitekturnoĭ shkole” (“On the problem of the Nakhchevan architectural school”), in Arkhitektura respublik Zakavkaz’ya (“The architecture of Transcaucasia”), Moscow, 1951. M. A. Useĭnov, Pamyatniki azerbaĭdzhanskogo zodchestva (“Monuments of Azerbaijan architecture”), Moscow, 1951. M. Useĭnov, L. Bretanitskiĭ, A. Salamzade, Istoriya arkhitektury Azerbaĭdzhana (“A history of the architecture of Azerbaijan”), Moscow, 1963.


(A. A. Kalantarian)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: December 15, 1984

Cite this entry:

A. A. Kalantarian, “ʿAJAMĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ajami-b (accessed on 16 October 2012).