The Nurulla Mosque built in the middle of the Hay Market (Senniy Bazar) rapidly developed into a community centre for Islamic Kazan and an important place for the spiritual life of the Tatar population of the entire region. The mosque building was the finishing point in the market’s architectural complex.
One of the biggest Kazan stone mosques of the 19th centre was built in the middle of the once bustling oriental Hay Market. It was known as the the Sennaya (Hay) or Market Mosque. Today it is known as the Nurulla mosque. The market place was the focal point of community life, a place where Muslims from all the nearby villages would gather in the early morning to sell their wares, hear the news and discuss important matters, and thus the Tatars needed a convenient place where they could carry out their daily namaz prayers.
Until 1773, the construction of mosques in Kazan was severely limited. The situation changed only when Ekaterina II issued a just edict “About Tolerance of All Religious Faiths”.
The mosque was built between 1845 and 1849. The construction was financed by two brothers, Ibragim and Ishak Yunosovs, city commerce councillors. That is why the mosque was initially named the Yunusov Mosque. The project was designed by Alexander Loman, born in the Greater Principality of Finland, which was part of the Russian Empire. The work was carried out by Alexander Peske, the architect of the Kazan Governorate Construction Commission. He had been sent to Kazan in 1843 to reconstruct the city in the aftermath of a fire, and subsequently become the chief architect of the governorate and built many other important buildings.
The façade of the mosque is in the eclectic style of Russian architecture which had just turned its back on the idea of classicism. Traditional designs combine with colourful ornamental designs to give an atmosphere of the orient to the building. The mosque’s minaret copies the form of the Kabir Minaret in ancient city of Bulgar: thus the Sennaya Mosque is an emphatic symbol of the connection of the present with a thousand years of tradition.
In 1929, during the Soviet era, the Nurulla Mosque was closed, like the majority of the mosques in Kazan, and given to the city. The minaret was dismantled and the interior of the Sennaya Mosque was converted initially into residential apartments, and later into offices.
Justice was restored in the 1990’s, when the mosque was returned to the Muslim community under a new name of “Nurulla”. Restoration including the construction of a new minaret was completed in 1995, based on a design project by Rafik Bilyalov, an architect who had carefully studied the history of the mosque. The floor of the mosque is now carpeted with rugs and it is difficult to imagine that it was once a place where ordinary families lived and clerks worked noisily.
The interior of the mosque is divided into two floors and two halls: the top floor is for men and the lower, almost subterranean, floor is for women. The interior of the mosque is decorated with quite bold designs: hundreds of beautiful tulips, the sacred flowers of prosperity and longevity, adorn the main prayer hall, filling the walls and ceiling and weaving into the royal tulip in the place of the traditional Muslim altar – the Mihrab.