Administration of State Historical-Architectural Reserve Icherisheher under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Monuments of universal value
The symbol of Baku, Maiden Tower was included into the list of World Cultural Heratage of UNESCO in December of 2000. Maiden Tower, erected at the coast of the Caspian Sea preserved its magnificence till our days. The Tower, which was included into the fortification system of Baku, was called “Maiden Tower” for its inaccessibility.
Maiden Tower is a cylindrical shaped tower built at the coast rock. From the sea side the oblong prop (counterfort) adjoins the tower. The height of the tower is 31meters from the north and 28meters from the south. It should be noted that there are some versions concerning the figure “28”. The facts that Caspian Sea is below the world sea level by 28 meters, there are 28 blocks in Icherisheher, the Fortress walls connect 28 semicircular towers, indicate the symbolic character of this figure. The diameter of the Tower is 16meters on the ground floor, and thickness of wall is 5meters on the ground floor. The Tower consists of 8 floors. Each of the eight floors is covered with the stone cupola with round hole in the center. The holes of the cupolas are arranged in such a way that it is possible to see the floor of the ground floor when looking through the openning in the central part of the ceiling of the eighth floor. The single entrance into the Tower is the arched doorway on its western side. The ground floor of the Tower is 3meters high, the height of the other floors is on the average 2,5meters. The connection between the floors is supported by staircases built in the thickness of the south-eastern wall of the tower. At medieval times there was no staircase on the ground floor and therefore the access to the first floor was possible only by lowering the rope or ladder through the circular hole on the ceiling. The door of the tower was also made of several firm layers. This fact is proved by the remains left on top of the arched door way, the length of which is equal to the width (5 meters) of the Tower wall. In order to keep under control the sea and southern and south-eastern sides of the Tower, special loopholes were made on the walls. These loopholes were intended for the circulation of fresh air, as well.
In 1962-63 archeological excavation works were carried out on the ground floor of the Tower. As a result of the digging down to a depth of 5 meters, it was found out that the foundation of the monument was built on a huge rock with slope to the sea. We can come to a conclusion that the counterfort adjoining the monument from the sea side plays the role of a main prop of the Tower in front of this slope.
During the archeological research works carried out in 1964, from the foundation of the Tower there were found big logs 14 meters high, which stretched to the interior of the monument. Even today, the main function of these logs is not known. It is possible that, these logs relate to a special construction inside the counterfort, or protect the building against earthquake.
There are various suppositions and legends about the date of construction and function of the tower. Some of the scientists suppose that the Tower was built in two different periods. According to this supposition, the lower part of the tower with smooth wall up to 12 meters is older and dates back to the VIII-VII centuries BC. The upper part surrounded with stone stripe is supposed to be built later.
Accurate calculations defined that the width of the Tower wall is 5 meters at the bottom and 4.5meters at the top. This fact shows that the lower and upper parts of the monument were not built in different periods as stated by some scientists, but in the same period. Because, the wall 5 meters wide helped the both parts of the Tower stand on firm foundation. The secret of preservation of the Maiden Tower till our days is its construction on such a firm foundation. One of the interesting features in the construction structure of the Maiden Tower is a well dug out on a rock. From the level of the ground floor to the depth of 5 meters the well was built out of well hewn stones. This well 21 meters deep is in the thickness of the south-eastern wall of the Tower, and its diameter is 0.7 meters. Excavation works were carried out in this well. Material cultural remnants found in the well show that it was used starting from the XII century. According to the calculations it was determined that the well has no connection with the sea level.
Chemical analysis also proved that water in the well is good for drinking. The mouth of the well starts from the level of the third floor and goes down 13meters along the wall of the Tower. The well was hidden inside of the Tower walls for security reason. On the northern and southern walls of the well there are foot-places 10-12cm deep for going up and down. The diameter of the well widens at the depth of 12 meters.
There is a supposition that the underground passage between Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs’ Palace starts from the bottom of the well. The first underground passage was discovered as a result of the large-scale archeological excavations carried out at the eastern part of Icherisheher in 1982. This passage is located on the eastern part of the main street leading from Shamakhi Gate, which was the central trade street of Baku at medieval times, to Salyan Gate. It is interesting that this way passes under Multani caravanserai of the XIV century and goes in the direction of the Maiden Tower.
There are different thoughts about functional purpose and date of construction of the Maiden Tower. This tower is called a temple of fire worshippers, defensive tower, observatory, Zoroastrian hut and so on.
One of the arguments to fix the date of construction of the Maiden Tower is a stone inscription with dimensions of 0.4x0.6 meters, located on the exterior of the tower, over the entrance, at the height of 14meters. The inscription runs: “Qubbe – Masud ibn Davud”. Some scientists suppose that Masud ibn Davud is the name of the architect who built the Tower. In their thoughts they are based on the inscription on the circular tower of Mardakan fortress. The inscription on Mardakan tower reads: “architect Abd-Al-Majid ibn Masud”. These researchers consider that the architect Abd-Al-Majid is the son of the architect Masud, who erected Maiden Tower. Till the recent period this inscription has been the main argument for relating this monument to the XII century. But, later on it was found out that this inscription was built into the Tower long time after its construction. It was inserted roughly into the part of the wall surrounded with stone stripe. According to the supposition of other researchers this stone inscription was placed on the Tower wall after its construction. As far as the origin of Masud ibn Davud is concerned, according to the medieval sources he is the grandson of Seljuk sultan Mahmud. Sultan Mahmud was the ruler of Azerbaijan in the early XII century. His grandson Masud is likely to have ruled over Northern Azerbaijan in this period and had this inscription inserted into the Tower wall in order to immortalize his own name.
According to the structure of the monument, some researchers link its history to the ancient periods and consider the Tower to be a Zoroastrian hut, a temple of fire worshippers, building related to the goddesses Mitra and Anahid. These researchers claim that the temple of fire worshippers – Maiden Tower could be built in the VIII-VII centuries BC under the influence of towered temples of Caspiana and Midiya at the cost of the Caspian Sea, in the ancient city of fire “Ateshi Baquan”.
Taking into account the resemblance of Maiden Tower to Chiraq Qala defensive tower, some scientists think that it relates to the Gilgilchay fortification system. Taking into consideration the similarity of Maiden Tower to the architectural elements of defensive towers in North-Eastern Albania, we can state that the Tower dates back to the V-VI centuries. It is known from the history that Baku, which was the southern city of Caucasian Albania, was under the influence of Sassanid Iran. It is possible to suppose that Maiden Tower was included into the fortification system built by Sassanid Empire in the northern occupied provinces, namely, in the territory of Albania.
There is a version that the Tower was originally called “Ghuz Qala”. “Ghuz” tower was a temple of the god of light-fire being worshipped by Turkic tribes. In the course of the centuries people created various legends, versions, and stories about the pride, magnificence and distant past of this ancient monument. It is possible that the name of “Ghuz” tower changed in these legends and assumed the form “Qiz” (Maiden) tower.
Maiden Tower damaged during various battles was gradually restored, and at medieval times the Tower together with Baku Fortress wall functioned as a fortification. The changes made on the constructional structure of the tower prove this fact. The Maiden Tower was built in this form, so that the ruler and his relatives could lock themselves in this tower and resist for long time even after the conquest of the city. As all these facts are characteristic of defensive towers, there is no need to undertake defensive measures in a temple, watch tower, or an observatory. Of course, the fact that the monument was used for the purpose of that period is not denied. We can note the resemblance of Maiden Tower to the magnificent defensive Towers (Mardakan, Ramana, Shuvalan, Nardaran towers) in Absheron.
Starting from the first floor up to the seventh floor there is a hollow in the form of a well built in the thickness of the south-western wall of the Tower. A semi-circular niche was made on the place of the hollow on each floor. Ceramic pipes 40-45cm long, 2.2cm thick and with the diameter 25-30cm, joined each other were placed into the hollow from the top up to the bottom. The joints of the pipes were stabilized with lime solution. From the ground floor up to the foundation of the Tower there are quadrangular ceramic gutters with dimensions of 22x18 cm, in the place of the pipes. These gutters go through the wall out of the Tower. The traces of potter’s wheel are obvious on these ceramic gutters and pipes. There is a supposition that this equipment functioned as sewerage system of the tower.
According to some suppositions Maiden Tower was an observatory. This tower could be used for astrological observations in day time. Each of the eight floors is covered with stone cupola with round hole in the center and this opening allows observing starry sky in day time. Its narrow windows look like loop-holes were suitable for the observation of starry sky. Each of the windows of the Tower was directed to the certain star: one to Sirius, the other to Veqa and the third one towards Antares.
However, Azerbaijani historian, Professor Sara Ashurbeyli rejects all these suppositions and tries to prove that neither for a temple of fire worshippers, nor for an observatory there is no need for such a thick wall. She considers Maiden Tower to be a defensive tower included into the general fortification system of Shirvanshahs. In case of danger, alarm signals were sent from the top of this beacon-tower to other towers by means of fire at night and by smoke in day time. Well-known epigraphist Meshedixanum Nemet read the word “qulle” in the inscription of the Maiden Tower. It is translated from Turkish languages as “tower”. In the opinion of Meshedixanum Nemet, Maiden Tower means “Eye Tower”, that is watch tower. This tower played the role of a beacon together with the quadrangular towers of Ramana and Mardakan and in case of danger alarm signals were delivered to other towers.
From the height of bird’s flight Maiden Tower looks like figures “9’ or “6”. These numbers together create the symbol “yin-yang”. In ancient Chinese cosmology “yin-yang” symbolizes the beginning of woman creation or female beginning of human creation. According to ancient Turkish perception “9” means the connection with the origin of life, also the time period for development of child in mother womb. The number “6” means the end of life, underworld.
From ancient times various legends and myths were created about Maiden Tower. One of these legends deals with the beautiful love of a daughter of king and a fisher. Every day the fisher came to Maiden Tower to see his beloved. He walked on the surface of the sea. His belief in this love gave him this power. Once after the date, on the way back the fisher thought about his beloved and some doubt appeared in his heart. Thus, he began to drown. When the daughter of the king saw her beloved drowning, she jumped from the Tower into the sea to rescue him. But, as the feeling of fear in her heart exceeded belief in love, she also drowned in the sea. Maiden Tower became the symbol of love and purity.
Another legend connects the name of Maiden Tower to the goddess of water Anahida (Arabians call her Zohre, turks name her Yaqut and Morning Star). Allah sent her to the earth in order to bring water to people. According to the myth, one day two angels – Marut and Harut were sent to the earth. Both of them fell in love with Anahida and declared secretly their love to her. Anahida confined them into the well, and then she rose to the heaven. From that time inhabitants of ancient world erected temples in honor of Anahida flown to the heaven and worshipped her. In the East such sacred places are named Maiden Tower. During archeological excavations a fish figure of bronze was discovered at the sea side of Maiden Tower. The head of this figure is in the form of a dolphin. Dolphin was considered the sacred animal of the Sea god in antique period. The finding of this figure near the Maiden Tower proves that this tower functioned as a temple of water goddess in the certain historical period.
According to another legend about the Maiden Tower, ancient Badikube (Baku) surrounded with three rows of walls was besieged for ninety days by Nuraddin shah of Iran. Within this city, at the coast of the Gulsum Sea (Caspian Sea) there was a black temple from the top of which smoke rose. In this temple all religious rituals were performed to save the city of fire. After the rituals, the main priest of the temple of fire Yeqirvand declared: “…Tomorrow the ruler of enemy will be killed by innocent creature…” At that moment the door of the temple opened and a maiden with long fair hair and with a fiery sword in her hand appeared at the hearth. She came up to the main priest. The priest said to her that she had to rescue the capital of the land of eternal fires – the sacred city and holy temple. The maiden came to the residence of Nuraddin shah and killed him. The fiery maiden fulfilled her sacred duty, she liberated her compatriots. But she fell in love with the ruler of enemy, and preferring to die after the death of her beloved she thrust the sword into her own heart at the door of the temple. At that moment the fire of the temple went out and the temple was named Maiden Tower in honor of the maiden. The wind blew for seven days and nights. On the seventh day the wind fell. The fire began to burn in the territory of Shamakhi region.
Maiden Tower was restored in 1960s and began to function as a museum in 1964.
Exposition of archaeological materials discovered from the well of the Maiden Tower is being displayed now on the third floor of the tower. These wares of the XII century were found from the water well during the excavation and their broken parts were restored with white plaster.
Weapons used at medieval times are being exhibited on the forth floor of the Maiden Tower. You can see here tabarzin, which was the favorite weapon of Eastern fighters. It is in the form of crescent and made out of steel. In this exposition you can see shield, dagger, armour, lance and other sorts of weapon, as well. The dagger has short blade and handle. All these weapons are only imitation, the original ones are preserved in Azerbaijan State History museum.
Archaeological excavations are underway in Icheri sheher. Perhaps, material-cultural findings being got during research works will allow to give accurate information about historical past of Maiden Tower.
Complex of Shirvanshahs Palace was the last residence of the rulers of Shirvan State with the history of thousand years. At medieval times this state was the most powerful state in Azerbaijan. While in the south of Azerbaijan old and new feudal states replaced each other, in its north the borders of Shirvan state stretched up to Derbend, the south of Daghistan. In the historical literature the history of Shirvanshahs’ state is divided into four periods: the first Shirvanshahs, Mazyadids, Kesranids and Derbendis. In the historical literature there is little information about the first Shirvanshah dynasty. Mazyadids dynasty was founded by Heysam ibn Khalid in 861. Mazyadids dynasty of Arabic origin assimilated into local nobility and gradually turned into Kesranids dynasty being local for its traditions and way of life. Shirvanshahs Manichohr, Akhsitan, Fariburz were wise and well-educated rulers from Kesranids dynasty. The last ruler of this dynasty was Shirvanshah Hushenge ibn Kavus. As he had no heir to the thrown, after his death in 1382, feudal lords of Shirvan elected his distinct relative Sheikh Ibrahim as the new Shirvanshah. Sheikh Ibrahim was a poor, but well-known feudal lord from Sheki. As his ancestor had been the ruler of Derbend, Sheikh Ibrahim founded the new Shirvanshahs dynasty of Derbendi. Sheikh Ibrahim ruled in very uneasy period linked with the wars of Emir Timur in Near East. In this period Emir Timur and Tokhtamish khan of the Golden Horde fought for the seizure of Azerbaijan, which had advantageous geographical position and rich natural resources. Campaigns of Timur and Tokhtamish of the Golden Horde that fought against each other passed through Shirvan and inflicted serious damages and losses to the country. Being a wise ruler and smart diplomat, Shirvanshah Ibrahim I took the side of Timur, the most powerful ruler of that period. In 1386 EmirTimur started to plan a new campaign against Tokhtamish khan. He made a military camp in Barda. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I convened his divan. Members of the divan recommended him to launch a war against Emir Timur. However,Shirvanshah Ibrahim I refused and told that he wouldn’t make his soldiers target to the sharp swords and arrows of enemy and he didn’t want his people to be trampled under feet of horses of enemy. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I stated that he would go to the military camp of Emir Timur and suggest him to be his vassal. Emir Timur would either accept his offer or behead him. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I went to military camp of Timur with various expensive gifts and in every possible way expressed his humility. Although he took all gifts in 9 pieces, the number of slaves was eight. When Emir Timur asked the reason, Shirvanshah Ibrahim I told that he was the nineth slave. Emir Timur liked his grand gesture so much that he recognized the independence of Shirvan state and entrusted him the protection of the northern borders of the country. In 1405 after the death of Timur the empire created by him collapsed. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I making use of the situation achieved the independence of Shirvan state. Sheikh Ibrahim I, who tried to expand the territory of Shirvan state, could unite the other lands of Azerbaijan – Ganja, Karabakh. Thanks to his diplomatic skills and military talent, for thirty five years of reign Sheikh Ibrahim could not only manage to keep Shirvan independent and strengthen its power, but he could also expand the territory of the country.
The first capital of Shirvanshahs’ state was the city of Shamakhi. After the devastating earthquake that took place in Shamakhi in 1197, Shirvanshah moved the capital to Baku. However, long before the earthquake, during the reign of Shirvanshah Manuchohr III (1120-1160) the fortress walls of old Baku were built.
In the written sources there is little information about Shirvanshahs’ state with thousand year history. The rich archive and manuscripts of Shirvanshahs were plundered during the war with Safavids state taken place in 1500. One can obtain information about social-political and cultural life of Shirvanshahs’ state, its administrative structure, its tax policy and kinds of tax and about other important issues from epigraphic sources. According to these documents, in the Shirvanshahs’ state after the ruler the second position was the chief commander, the third was the position of sadr. Close relative of Shirvanshahs (brother or cousin) usually held the position of chief commander. During the reign of Shirvanshah Sheikh Ibrahim I, his brother Sheikh Bahlul was the chief commander of Shirvan state. Emir Tahmuras, the son of Sheikh Bahlul held the position of chief commander during the rule of Shirvanshah Khalilullah I, the son of Sheikh Ibrahim. As usual, the highest priests held the position of sadr. Sheikh-ul-Islams, imams, seyids, akhunds and other religious figures, scientists participated in state meetings and played the main role in making decisions on important state issues. The only manuscript of document written by Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar, which has come down to our days, confirms this fact. In 1474 when Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar appointed his son Shamkhal ruler in Mahmudabad, Qustasb region and Salyan, he told him not to make a decision without the participation of religious figures. He wrote that religious figures were the columns of the state and they could not keep peoples under obedience without the help of priests.
During the reign of Shirvanshah Manuchohr III (1120-1160) and his son Akhsitan I (1160-1197) Shirvan state flourished and strengthened, intensive renovation and construction works were carried out, cities and castles were built, military fortifications and public houses were restored.
In the XII century and the first half of the XIII century there happened economical, political and cultural development in Shirvan state. In this period Baku was the capital of Shirvanshahs’ state. Military-strategical significance of Baku and Absheron peninsular in the defence of the northern borders of Shirvan increased. Baku also developed as a port city. Sabail castle, fortress walls, Shirvanshahs’ Palace are clear proof of this development.
Shirvanshahs’ state lost its independence under Mongols. Numismatic materials related to the second half of the XIII century confirm this fact. Only the name of Munkakaan was minted on coins. During the reign of Sheikh Ibrahim I (1382-1417), Khalilullah I (1417-1462), Farrukh Yasar (1462-1500) military fortifications of Derbend, Akhti, Tsakhur were restored, Farrukhiyye medrese was built in Jame (mosque) komplex of Derbend. Shirvanshahs could keep independence till 1538. On coins minted during the reign of Sheikh Ibrahim II his name is used with the title “Sultan”. In 1538 Shirvanshahs’ state was united to Safavids state.
The Complex of Shirvanshahs’ Palace was erected on one of the highest points of Icherisheher, in a densely populated area. The construction work was not confined to the single architectural plan. However, taking into consideration the purpose of each building of the Complex, the masters could place them in order of importance and could create a beautiful scenery. If you look carefully, you can see that the buildings don’t contrast each other, on the contrary, they complete each other.The constructions of the Complex occupy 1 hectare area. Because of rough relief of its area, the territory of the Complex was divided into three courtyards with the level difference of 5-6meters. The constructions of the Complex are located in these three courtyards. Here you can observe the division of the area according to the functional purpose.
The upper courtyard, where Dwelling house and Mausoleum of Farrukh Yassar are located, is called ceremonial yard.
We start our tour from the masterpiece of the Complex – Memorial Tomb (Mausoleum) of Farrukh Yassar. The mausoleum is situated in quadrangular closed yard. There are two entrances into this quadrangular yard: from the upper yard and from the street. The quadrangular yard is surrounded with arched pillar gallery from three sides. In the compositional center of the yard, on the high stilobat there is an octangular rotunda, which is surrounded by the open arched arcade. The rotunda also has two entrances. The main western entrance is emphasized with the magnificent richly ornamented portal. On the portal there are oriental carpets’ ornaments carved 3-5sm deep on stones. The ribbed semi cupola of the portal is rested upon seven rows of stalactites. On the stalactites there is a foliage motif. On the framing of this portal on both sides there are hexagonal medallions with the inscriptions. These inscriptions are written in very ancient Kufic Arabic script. On the left inscriptions carved inside the medallion form six geometrical patterns in the form of rhomb. Two of them run: “There is no deity but Allah”. The other two read: “Prophet Mohammed is the messenger of Allah”. The rest of the rhombs run: “Imam Ali is close to Allah”. The hexagonal medallion on the right contains twelve small rhombs. Six of them run: “Allah is single”, the other six bear the name “Mohammed”.
The portal leads to small quadrangular vestibule. In the corner of this vestibule there are two premises laid on one over another. Not only the western portal, but also the inner entrance into the octangular hall is delicately decorated. Leaves of fig and grape typical to the flora of Azerbaijan are carved on its framing Over the ornaments there is an inscription written in Arabic, which is the dictum from Koran. It runs: “The highest and most honest God said – may He be praised - Allah calls people to the world of peace, to the paradise. He directs whoever he chooses to the blessed road. Those who do good will get the good, and neither dust nor infamy will not cover their faces. They will be rewarded with paradise, in which they will stay for ever”. In each architectural monument inscriptions carved on the walls correspond to its functional purpose. The inscription carved on this monument deals with the life hereafter, forgiveness of sins. It is supposed that Shirvanshah Farrukh Yassar got this building constructed as his own memorial tomb. However, in the battle taken place between the troops of Shirvanshahs and Safavids in 1500-1501, Farrukh Yassar was defeated. He was captured in the battle, and later he was burned with tied arms and legs. Therefore, he was not buried in this tomb. The architectural structure of this monument is like those of Emir Timur’tomb and Row of arches. The octangular hall is covered with a beautiful cupola of unusual outline. The hall has six doorways and two big niches.
Originally all these doorways were covered with stone lattices-“shebeke”. In winter they were covered with carpets, in summer curtains were hung there. From outside the framings of these doorways are also decorated with plant and geometrical ornaments. At the sharp point of arch of each door there is one hexagonal medallion with the name of Imam Ali repeated six times: three in raised form and three in sunk. Pictures and photos, as well as traces on the columns prove the fact that in the past there was a stone barrier between the columns. In the yard of the mausoleum (tomb) there are five wells dug at rock. They are of various depths from 3 to 15 meters. They are located in different parts of the yard. Some of them are on the base of walls. This proves the fact that these wells were dug out before the construction of Tomb. All of them are dry, and city dwellers who lived here before the Shirvanshahs used them for the storage of food. However, in the Mausoleum (Tomb) the carving work was not finished. Some ornaments were left unfinished on the capitals and basis of the columns, as well as on the framings of the doorways. Judging by all these details, one can say that the construction of this building was stopped in connection with the military events taken place in 1500-1501.
The Complex of Shirvanshahs’ Palace is made out of well-hewn local limestone, called “badamdar”. Limestone being milky white, after grinding acquires golden tint.
Two-storeyed Dwelling House is the oldest building of the Complex. In this two-storied building of irregular form floors are connected by means of three stone staircases built in the thickness of walls. Originally this palace had 52 rooms; 27 of them were on the ground floor, 25 were on the first floor. The ground floor with narrow windows look like loop-holes was intended for servants and storehouses. The Shirvanshah together with his family lived in the rooms of the first floor with large windows decorated by stone lattices “shebeke”. The main entrance into the Palace is at the western part. The entrance is emphasized with high pointed arch. Its high, modest portal is distinguished by the play of light and shade. The palace is made from narrow and broad stone lines, that is, in one row stones lie horizontally and in another they lie vertically. Due to the rotation of masonry rows stones acquire different tint. Because of the play of light, deep hollows and various shades appear. In comparison with the richly ornamented portal of Farrukh Yassar’s tomb, the simple portal of Dwelling house looks very sordid. This portal signifies the inviolability of this Palace as a fortress. The massive pointed portal leads to the octangular entrance hall topped with a high cupola. This hall is supposed to have been the reception room of Shirvanshahs. Narrow holes looked like loop-holes on the walls of the octangular hall were intended for communication with the ground floor. The main rooms of the Dwelling house are Thrown hall and Banquet hall. Thrown hall is to the left of the reception room. There is inscription over its entrance door which is a dictum from Zilzar sura of Koran: “People who do good things will get it back at the end”. In the Banquet hall the windows covered with stone lattices “shebeke” overlook the beautiful panorama of the bay. Stepped outline of the building and two-light windows typical to the dwelling houses of Absheron provide a good lighting of rooms. Iohan Lerkh, who visited Baku in 1734, wrote: “The roof of the Palace (cupolas) is decorated with glazed tiles of turquoise colour”. Russian archaeologist V.N.Leviatov, who conducted cleaning-excavation works in the Palace in 1937-1938, wrote: “In different places in the territory of the Palace there were found whole pieces of tile and their fragments: some of them have radiating, curve surface. It means that they could be used in facing of cupolas”. This information allows to suppose that the palace was covered with cupolas decorated with blue tiles.
Among the all buildings of the Complex it was Dwelling house that had most frequently suffered the destruction. The Shirvanshahs state was defeated in the war waged against Safavids state in 1500-1501. As a result, Shirvanshah Farrukh Yassar was killed, the Palace was seized and looted by the troops of Safavids. The fact that who lived in the Palace after Shirvanshahs is unknown. In 1723 when the troops of Peter the Great bombarded the city from the sea, the upper part of Dwelling house was damaged and its cupolas were destroyed. I.Berezin in his plan of the Palace drawn up in 1842 showed 9 cupolas on the roof of the building. Doctor Kook, who visited Baku in 1747, wrote: “In this city there was a magnificent palace made out of well ground stones. In 1723 the Russian cannon-balls made it fall into ruins in which we found it”. After the annexation of Azerbaijan to Russia in 1828, the Complex was handed over to the Russian military department. They transformed the Palace into the storehouse for military equipment and ammunition. At that time when the repair-construction works were carried out in Dwelling house, its cupola decorated with glazed tiles of turquoise color, some walls, as well as the mosaic plaster of arches were completely demolished. In the late XIX century the Place was destroyed and derelict. As a result of the first restoration work carried out in the Complex in 1932/34, the Dwelling house was topped with flat ceiling instead of cupola. During the latest reconstruction work ended in 2004 cupolas of the Dwelling house were restored.
Dervish’s tomb, remains of Bayil castl, foundation of Key-Gubad mosque are located at the middle courtyard.
Eastern Portal is the last construction of the Complex. Eastern Portal, known as “Murad’s gate” was erected later than the other monuments of the Complex in the XVI century during the occupation of Baku by Ottoman Turks. The upper part of the Portal is decorated with the inscription written in Arabic: “Ulu Radgab baba Bakuvi ordered to build this noble building during the reign of fair and majestic Sultan Murad khan in 994 year of hijri history or in 1585-86 years. On both sides of the inscription there are rosettes with vegetative ornaments The semi cupola with stalactites forms a deep hollow at the bottom of the portal. The name of the architector was carved very skillfully on the portal. The beginning of the inscription is on the right side of the portal niche, the end is on the opposite side. This inscription informs that the resident of Valiankuh settlement of Tabriz, the architect Amirshah Valiankuhi built Eastern portal. This portal is likely to have been the entrance of the building which either didn’t survive, or was not built at all. This version is proved by the inscription which informs about the construction of building – “imaret”, not gate. Eastern Portal was built in the spirit of portals of Tombs of Farrukh Yassar and Shirvanshahs with its general style and artistic-ornamental composition.
Remains of Castle.
In the middle courtyard there are a great number of stone slabs with the inscriptions and images. They are not the remains of construction built in the Complex, but they relate to Shirvanshahs. All these stone slabs were discovered at the bottom of Baku bay. They are remains of castle, one of the unique architectural monuments of medieval times left under the water in Baku bay for many centuries. As a result of the archaeological research works carried out in 1946 and 1962 years, it was found out that in the bay within 300 meters of the coast there had been a small island, known as “Sabail city”. The oblong rectangular castle was erected on this island in the XIII century during the reign of the Shirvanshah Fariburz III. Arif Ardebilly in his work “Farhadname” compared this castle to Gulustan fortress. Castle was 175m long and 35m wide. Walls of 1,8m thick connected circular and semi-circular towers. The castle had 15 towers; 3 of them were circular, the rest were semi-circular. Three towers in the corners had entrances into the castle. In some towers there are stone staircases. The inscription with date 632 hijri (in 1234-35 years) found from its wall points to the time when the construction of the castle was finished. However, in the early XIV century, in 1306, as a result of earthquake the level of the Caspian Sea rose, the island was flooded, and Bayil castle collapsed and submerged under the water. However, in 1722 the level of the Caspian Sea began to drop and kept falling up to the XX century. As a result stones, rocks emerged out of the sea. The low level of the sea let the Institute of History of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences start the archaeological research of this building in 1939. As a result of a 30 year long work, about 700 stone slabs, which were 70cm high, 25cm wide and 12-15cm thick, were lifted from the bottom of the bay. All these stone slabs with inscriptions and images were in frieze which encircled the upper walls of the castle from outside. These inscriptions written in Arabic, mostly in Persian were badly preserved. On these stone slabs the researchers could read names of some cities – Baku, Shamakhi, titles – shah, sultan, names of Shirvanshahs ruled till that time – Muhammed ibn Yazid, Khalid, Ali, Manuchohr, Gushtasb, Fariburz and so on. The inscription carved on two stone slab runs: “That is the work of the master Zeinaddin ibn Abu Rashid Shirvani”. Besides the stone inscriptions, there are a lot of stones with images of animals; realistic and symbolic, human heads and pictures of fabulous creatures carved in bas-relief. Images of lion and bull carved on the stone slabs are the heraldic symbols of Shirvan state. Pictures of realistic animals depicted on the stones might be served as a calender of that time, they showed the year of reign of Shirvanshahs. It is known that at medieval times in Near East each year was named after a certain animal. Human heads carved on the stone slabs could be identified as the portraits of Shirvanshahs. The research of the castle proved the fact that it was a defensive fortress. There was a fleet of Shirvanshah here. Thus, in front of the outer side of the castle walls, archaeologists discovered stones with holes for tying of mooring ships. During the archaeological excavation scientists found here the remains of rooms, fire places, pottery, coins.
The monument known as Dervish’s tomb is wrongly considered to be the mausoleum of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi. The dervish buried in this tomb lived and worked as a “muezzin” in the Palace of Shirvanshah Ibrahim I long before the arrival of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi in Baku. The octangular tomb is covered with pyramid like cupola. Its height is 7.5 meters. The mausoleum consists of subterranean and upper parts. The subterranean part is the vault of the dervish. The upper part was intended for religious ceremonies. Originally the inner walls of the upper part were covered with grey plaster. On the walls there were holes 3mm deep, which were filled with red, black and brown plasters. The tomb is made from narrow and broad well ground stone lines.
Foundation of Key-Gubad mosque.
There was once a madrasa-mosque adjacent to the dervish’s tomb. This mosque, named after Shirvanshah Key-Gubad was built in the XIV century. The mosque consisted of a rectangular prayer-hall with a small vestibule. In the center of the hall there were four columns on which the cupola was rested. The facade of the mosque was simple, strict without ornaments and inscriptions. Unfortunately, this madrasa-mosque was not preserved to our days. In 1918 Key-Gubad mosque was burnt down, and after fire only three bases of columns remained of that madrasa-mosque.
Shirvanshahs’ family tomb and Palace mosque are situated at the Down yard, called worship yard. Palace bath-house and Ovdan are located in the lowest terrace of the Complex. The lower yard is separated from the other yards of the Complex by a blind wall with arched doorway.
Shirvanshahs’ family tomb is a rectangular building topped with hexagonal cupola. The exterior of the cupola is decorated with distinct polygonal stars. In the past, hollows (star shaped hollows) on the smooth exteriors of the cupola were filled with light-blue glazed tiles. Unfortunately, they were not preserved on the cupola. But, remnants of those tiles were discovered in the territory of the Palace during the archaeological excavation works. The entrance of the Memorial tomb is in the form of the richly ornamented portal. Ornaments carved on the portal are composed of leaves and petals of oleander. This portal is one of the most beautiful models in Azerbaijan architecture. The portal’s arch is as deep as the portal in Farrukh Yassar’s mausoleum. The ribbed semi-cupola of the portal is rested upon four rows of stalactites. At the top of the portal there are two inscriptions written in nash script. The first inscription is the dictum from the 12th sura of Koran: “Allah, the holiest and highest”, said, “on that day Allah will forgive you, because Allah is the most merciful”. The inscription below is a hadissa: “The Prophet said - may Allah be blessed and greeted - You will certainly see your Lord with your own eyes”. On the tymphons of the portal there are two medallions of tear-drop shape. It is wrongly considered that the architect carved his own name inside these medallions. In fact, the inscription written here runs: “Thanks to the God for the gifts that gives us”. The inscription over the entrance informs about the functional purpose of the building: “The Highest Sultan the Great Shirvanshah, the namesake of the Prophet, protection of Islam, Khalilullah I, - may his reign and power be immortalized by Allah, - ordered to build this sacred burial vault for his mother and son,- may Allah bless them”. 839 hijri (1435/36). At the sharp point of arch there is one hexagonal medallion with the name of Imam Ali repeated twelve times. The burial hall with the cupola is in center of the building. In the right and left corners of the hall there are two small rooms,which were intended for molla. According to the inscription over the entrance, it is obvious that the tomb was built for mother and son of the Shirvanshah Khalilullah I. However, the other members of the Shirvanshahs family were buried here. According to some versions, in 1500-1501 years when the troops of Safavids occupied Baku, Shah Ismail Khatai destroyed all the graves in the Shirvanshahs’ family tomb in revenge of his grandfather Sheykh Juneid and father Sheykh Heydar. However, as a result of the archaeological works, it was found out that, Shah Ismayl Khatai had destroyed only the tomb stones. According to the divan written by poet Badr Shirvany, who lived in the Shirvanshahs’ Palace in XIV-XV centuries, the members of the Shirvanshahs’ family buried here are: Khalilullah I, his mother Bika khanum, his sons – Farrukh Yamin, Sheykh Saleh, Emir Bahram, Ibrahim and Khalilullah’s cousin, Chief Commander of Shirvanshahs’ Army, Emir Tahmuras. The tomb stone of Emir Tahmuras is displayed in the exhibition opposite the Maiden Tower (Khanegah or Market Square).
Palace Mosque is the second monument located at the down courtyard. The palace mosque is covered with two sharp-pointed cupolas and emphasized by well proportioned vertical minaret raised in the noth-eastern part of the building. The minaret is 22m high. At the top of the minaret there is a balcony-sherefe, which is intended for muezzin. The small balcony of the minaret is supported by stalactites, under which there is an inscription written in Arabic: “This minaret was built by order of Sultan Khalilullah I, may Allah exalt the days of his government”. 845 hijri (or 1441-42 years). There are three entrances into the mosque. The main northern entrance has a portal. On both sides of the portal there are niches for shoes. According to the Shariat law, one can’t enter the mosque without doing ablution and taking the shoes off. In order to do ablution there is a square with a small pool and water well at the lower yard. The northern entrance leads to the praying hall for men. From the east, from the middle yard there is the second entrance with the simple portal. It was intended for the Shirvanshah. The western entrance, which leads to the women’s praying hall is the simlest one. In the mosque there are two praying halls. The large praying hall was intended for men, but small for women. There is a simply decorated “mehrab” (altar) on the southern wall of the praying hall for men. The mehrab is decorated with ribbed semi cupola and delicate stalactites. An ordinary nich plays the role of mehrab in the women’s praying hall. In the mosque acoustics problem was solved in very interesting way. The big clay jugs are built into the upper corners of the men’s praying hall, with their small necks turned to the hall. These jugs serve as loudspeakers, they create acoustic resonance. Due to these jugs, when Imam gave a sermon in the main hall, women could hear his speech in their own praying hall. The women’s praying hall has two passages, which are intended for communication with the main hall of the mosque. On the walls of the mosque there are niches of different forms and functions. They were used for prayer-mats, beads, Koran books and lamps to be placed there. Chandeliers hung from the cupola used for illumination of the mosque.
Palace bath-house is located in the lowest terrace of the Complex. Like all oriental bath-houses, it was built with half of the construction located under the ground. It was done for maintaining temperature regime; it was hot in winter and cool in summer. From outside one could see only its portal and cupola. However, after Shirvanshahs the Palace bath-house was out of use and gradually buried under the soil. The bath-house remained under the soil for many centuries. In 1939 the bath-house was discovered, and in 1961 the conservation work was carried out here. Originally all rooms of the bath-house were covered with cupolas, and on the cupolas there were slits for day-light and ventilation. This system is typical to bath-houses of Baku and Absheron. In the bath-house there were two groups of rooms. One group of rooms was intended for undressing and called “bayir”(outside). The second group of rooms, called “ichery” (inside) was intended for washing. The reservoirs of cold and hot water, called “Khazna” were connected with the soap rooms. Water came to the bath-house from the “Shah Ovdan” (water reservoir) located behind the Palace walls. Water was seeped into the “Ovdan” from the deep layers of the soil, from kahrizes. Palace Ovdan, dug out 70 steps deep at the rock, was one of the largest ovdans in Absheron and supplied with drinking water both the Palace and some residential blocks of the city. In the Palace bath-house the heating system was worked out in very interesting way. From Shah ovdan through ceramic pipe cold water went the boiler-room and after heating by white oil, it was distributed among soap rooms, that is(i.e), hot water came to the stone wash-basin cut at the walls. Heating was realized by means of steam canals under the floor of soap rooms. Undressing rooms were warmed by hot air coming from the washing part. In the bath-house there are stone benches, round pools and holes for shoes. In the past, both the exterior and interior of the bath-house were decorated with glazed tiles.
In the history of Azerbaijan architecture, minarets play an important role. The minaret next to the Mohammed Mosque, at which you have now arrived, was built in the year 1078 and is a particularly archaic structure. In its way of construction it is typical of the northern regions of Azerbaijan. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its significance as an outstanding building.
Let us, for this moment, not stick to the chronological order and start with some events in the year 1723: Peter I., czar of Russia, called “the Great”, made a strategic decision: In order to conquer Persia, he intended to capture the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. He sent a fleet, and in the summer of 1723, 15 combat vessels lay before Baku. Their commander issued an ultimatum for the town: They were to surrender immediately or an attack would follow. The Khan of Baku declined. The reaction of the Russian warfleet was not long in coming and under thunderous fire, parts of the city wall and the minaret collapsed.
All of a sudden, the wind turned, as it often happens in the bay of Baku. The ships of the attackers were driven out into the Caspian Sea.
The residents of the town witnessed this and, according to the legend, interpreted it as a sign from Allah. Instantly, they began with the restoration of the defensive walls. Unfortunately, the efforts were not rewarded. The walls did not have enough time to dry, and the troups of the czar were finally able to capture the town. It was decided by residents to keep the minaret tower destroyed as a reminder of the aggression and it has ever since been seen as a symbol of the the town’s residents’ power of resistance. It is proudly called “Synyk-kala” – the Broken Tower.
Russian listeners of this trip through Icherisheher, and those who come from the eastern parts of Europe, may probably have entirely different associations with “Synyk-kala”.
'Brilliantovaja Ruka' is the key term - “The Brilliant Hand”. A Russian production of 1969, this comedy gained cult status. People like to insert whole passages of dialogues in conversations. The story of clumsy Semyon Gorbunkov, who accidentally gets involved in a diamond smuggling, is actually set in Turkey. But director Leonid Gaidai resolved to shoot several scenes in Baku - one of them right here, in front of the Mohammed Mosque.
If you are able to quote lines from the movie, the authors are happy to invite you to a cup of tea at the second to last stop - the Mugam Theatre - providing they are present.
But let us leave the trivia now and turn to some words about the importance and architecture of the building.
The body of the tower is rather plain, although the carefully chiselled stones are proof of the stonemasons’ skillful mastery of their material.
Its stern appearance stresses the building’s function: To call believers to the prayer and to demonstrate the presence and power of Islam.
This relation is not only accomplished through the tower’s form and function: A date stamping, carved into stone, is evidence for the fact that in front of us lies the very building that was the first one to be explicitly connected with Islam, the prevailing religion in the country. This inscription is still preserved and can be found on the northern side of the mosque, next to the entrance. Engraved in Kufi, one of the oldest Arabic scripts, it says: “This mosque was built by Ustad-Rais Muhammad ibn-Abu-Bakr in the year 471.” Converted to Christian calculation of times, this is the year 1078/79.
The original mosque from the 11th century is not preserved, but excavations documented that it was built on top of the original grounding, adopting its outlines.