The Qolsharif Mosque, also spelled Qol Sharif, Kol Sharif, Qol Sherif, located in Kazan Kremlin was the largest mosque in Russia and, reputedly, in Europe outside Istanbul. As of 2009, reputedly, it’s the second largest mosque in Europe (without Turkey) after Grozny Central Dome Mosque.
Originally, the mosque was built in the Kazan Kremlin in the 16th century. It was named after Qolsharif who served there. Qolsharif died with his numerous students while defending Kazan from Russian forces in 1552. It is believed that the building featured minarets, both in the form of cupolas and tents. Its design was traditional for Volga Bulgaria, although elements of early Renaissance and Ottoman architecture could have been used as well. In 1552, during the storming of Kazan it was destroyed by Ivan The Terrible.
Tatar scholars speculate as to whether some elements of Qolsharif mosque can be seen in Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow (8 minarets, a central cupola, not typical for Russian architecture). Since 1996 the mosque has been rebuilt in Kazan Kremlin, although its look is decisively modern. Its inauguration on July 24, 2005 marked the beginning of celebrations dedicated to the Millennium of Kazan.
Several countries contributed to the fund that was set up to build Qolsharif mosque. Namely, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. Qolsharif is considered to be one of the most important symbols of Tatar aspiration to independence and liberty. Nowadays the mosque predominantly serves as Museum of Islam. At the same time during the major Muslim celebrations thousands of people gather there to pray.
The Qolsharif complex was envisioned to be an important cornerstone of Kazan architectural landscape. Besides the main mosque building it includes the library, publishing house and Imam’s office.