maandag 13 februari 2012

Azerbaijan, Maiden Tower

Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th-century Shirvanshahs' Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture.



Built on a site inhabited since the Palaeolithic period, the Walled City of Baku reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sassanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Inner City (Icheri Sheher) has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, and the 15th-century Shirvanshah's Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan architecture.
The Inner Walled City is one of the few surviving medieval towns in Azerbaijan. It retains the characteristic features of a medieval town, such as the labyrinth of narrow streets, congested buildings and tiny courtyards. The walls of the old town, which still survive on the western and northern sides, were built by Menutsshochr Shah in the 12th century and were repaired in the 19th century. The narrow streets are lined with houses dating from the late 18th century onwards, but also contain earlier monuments, mostly concentrated in the lower, seaward, side of the town.
The Maiden Tower is located in the south-east part of Icheri Sheher; this unique monument of Azerbaijan architecture was built in two periods. It is an astonishing cylindrical structure, rising to eight storeys. Each storey is roofed by a shallow vault with a central aperture. The bottom three storeys are thought to date to as early as the 7th or 6th centuries BC and to have been an astronomical observatory or fire temple. Evidence for this comes from the existence of a shaft, visible at the back of niches in the second and third storeys. This appears to have been designed to channel natural gas to provide fuel for an eternal flame. The main part of the tower is circular in plan, but with a long solid projection to the east which points towards sunrise at the equinoxes. The floors are connected by staircases built into the walls, and are lit by means of narrow windows.
The Shirvanshah's Palace was built in the 15th century, when Shamaha was finally abandoned as the capital in favour of Baku. Construction proceeded during the reigns of Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, until the latter was killed in battle in 1501. The palace was seriously damaged by a Russian naval bombardment in the 18th century and much of the upper parts were destroyed. Restoration work was carried out in the 18th-20th centuries. Treasures from the palace, initially taken to Tabriz, were subsequently transferred as booty to the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. The complex comprises several discrete elements: the residential part, the Divankhane, the Shirvanshahs' Mausoleum, the palace mosque with its minaret, the baths (hammam ), the Mausoleum of the Court Astrologer Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, the slightly later Eastern Gate and the mosque of Key-Gubad. The palace is built on the highest point of one of the hills within Icheri Sheher. Extending over three superimposed terraces, it is clearly visible from the sea from and the heights surrounding the city.
The tsarist city lies outside the Inner Walled City but constitutes a buffer zone protecting the setting of the latter. During the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, Baku was one of the major centres of oil production in the world. This generated substantial wealth, as can be seen by the high quality of the buildings dating from this period. The main conservation problem with these concerns the balconies, which were formed of stone slabs supported by slender iron girders. Decay of the stone and rusting of the ironwork has led many of them to be replaced in concrete, usually with the concurrent loss of their supporting stone consoles.





Historical Description

Baku is located in the state of Shirvan, which existed from the 9th century CE until 1538, when it was annexed by Safavid Iran. In 1585 the town was captured by the Ottoman Sultan Murat III, and in 1723 it was occupied by the Russian General Matushkin, when it was destroyed by fire. It became part of the Russian Empire in 1783.
- The Inner Walled City (Icheri Sheher) The Inner Walled City, which forms the property proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List, is one of the few surviving medieval towns in Azerbaijan. It retains the characteristic features of a medieval town, such as the labyrinth of narrow streets, congested buildings, and tiny courtyards.
The walls of the old town, which still survive on the western and northern sides, were built by Menutsshochr Shah in the 12th century and were repaired in the 19th century. The narrow streets are lined with houses dating from the late 18th century onwards, but also contain earlier monuments, mostly concentrated in the lower, seaward, site of the town. These include the Mehmet Masjid of 1078-79, two single-cell medresses of the 12th century, the 15th century Haji Gaib Hammam, to the south of which lie two 17th century Zoroastrian fire temples, the larger with a courtyard truncated by the modern road. Next to these is the 16th-17th century two-storeyed Kasumbek Caravanserai for merchants coming by sea, and nearby is the 17th-century Kasumbek Mosque. Further to the east lie the 14th-15th century Multani Caravanserai, used by Indian merchants, and facing it the 15th-century Bukhara Caravanserai, built for merchants from central Asia, behind which there is a small derelict 17th century hammam.
- The Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) Located in the south-east part of Icheri Sheher, this unique monument of Azerbaijan architecture was built in two periods. It is an astonishing cylindrical structure, rising to eight storeys and 29.5m high, with a diameter of 16.5m. Each storey is roofed with a shallow vault with a central aperture. The walls are 5m thick at the base and 3.2-4m at the top. The bottom three storeys are thought to date to as early as the 7th or 6th century BCE and to have been an astronomical observatory or fire temple. Evidence for this comes from the existence of a shaft, visible at the back of niches in the second and third storeys, which it has been established extends 15m below ground level. This appears to have been designed to channel natural gas to provide fuel for an eternal flame.
The main part of the tower is circular in plan, but with a long solid projection to the east which points towards sunrise at the equinoxes. The floors are connected by staircases built in the walls, and are lit by means of narrow windows. The upper part of the tower dates from the 12th century and incorporates a Kufic inscription of Kubey Mesud ibn Da'ud, commemorating a reconstruction in the 12th century. The masonry is quite distinct from the original, as alternate courses of stone were recessed in order to take gypsum plaster, to give a black-and-white striped effect. Some of the original plaster survives on the more protected north-western, side. In addition, the masonry at the end of the beak-like projection is curved, whilst that of the earliest stonework on which it is built has square corners. In the upper, medieval, portion of the tower there is a staircase from the floor built in the thickness of the wall in the area next to the projection.
- The Shirvanshahs' Palace The Palace was built in the 15th century, when Shamaha was finally abandoned as the capital in favour of Baku. Construction proceeded during the reigns of Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, until the latter was killed in battle in 1501. The palace was seriously damaged by a Russian naval bombardment in the 18th century and much of the upper parts were destroyed. Restoration work was carried out in the 18th-20th centuries. Treasures from the palace, initially taken to Tabriz, were subsequently transferred as booty to the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.
The complex comprises several discrete elements: the residential part, the Divankhane, the Shirvanshahs' mausoleum, the Palace Mosque with its minaret, the baths (hammam), the Mausoleum of the Court Astrologer Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, the slightly later Eastern Gate, and the mosque of Key-Gubad. The palace is built on the highest point of one of the hills within Icheri Sheher. Extending over three superimposed terraces, it is clearly visible from the sea from and the heights surrounding the city. Entry is into an open courtyard at the upper level, which provides access both to the Divankhane and the residential part of the palace.
The Divankhane, the place of state meetings and receptions, consists of a square courtyard, arcaded on three sides, with the octagonal building of the Divankhane itself occupying the centre. The western facade of the rotunda is embellished by the magnificent portal. The ruler sat on an elevated level, below which there is a basement cell with a communicating grille in the floor. Some of the carving on the capitals of the arcade on the exterior of the building was never completed, possibly because of Faruk's death in 1501. The building is covered with a stone dome.
The two-storey residential section of the palace is entered through a high portal into an octagonal, domed, entrance hall, formerly faced with ceramic tiles. The small octagonal vestibule beyond it connects it with other parts of the palace: four entrances lead to different rooms and two to staircases. The slots of the niches of the octahedral hall were intended for communication with the ground floor. The southern and eastern halls are distinct in form and decoration from the ceremonial halls and rooms on the first floor.
This section of the palace is much less complete, as a result of the Russian bombardment, which destroyed both the domes that formerly covered the rooms as well as the upper parts of the walls. The rooms provide different views of the Caspian Sea. Good-quality stone carving is being undertaken to replace missing elements, but it has not been possible to reproduce the fine drilled 15th century work. The inner faces of the walls of the dining room of the palace have been faced with new stone backed on reinforced concrete columns. (It has already been appreciated that the introduction of mild steel into a historic structure is unwise and these columns are to be removed.) The lower stores in the domestic part of the palace open on a garden.
This garden contains the Mausoleum of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, a court astrologer, which was originally entered through a rectangular mosque, only the foundations of which now survive. The tomb is a two-storey domed structure. Stored in the garden are sections of a tall inscription; these were recovered from the sea and originally formed part of the wall of the 12th century Sabail island fortress, destroyed by an earthquake in the 13th century.
The middle courtyard of the palace, at a lower level, contains the Shirvanshahs' mausoleum, built in 1434-35 by Shah Khalilulla I for his mother and sons. It is rectangular in plan and covered by a hexagonal dome ornamented with multiradial stars. When excavated in 1945-46, the mausoleum was found to contain seven burials, accompanied by rich grave goods, now in the Museum of History of Azerbaijan.
At right-angles is the palace mosque of 1441, the dome of which has simple plaster work of the 19th century. There are two prayer halls, together with some subsidiary rooms. There are three entrances into the mosque, the main (northern) one having a portal, on both sides of which there are semicircular niches intended for shoes. As in a number of other places in the palace, water penetration through the stone roof of the mosque is causing concern.
The lowest part of the palace are the ruins of the Palace bath-house, discovered in 1939 during excavations in a vineyard. Its plan consists of two large rectangular structures divided into smaller ones by four columns, with a separate furnace building for producing the steam taken through underfloor channels to the bath. Sections of the original wall tiles survive in some of the rooms.
The Eastern Portal of the Shirvanshahs' Palace was erected later than the other parts of the complex, in the 16th century. Its upper part is decorated with the constructional inscription in Arabic referring to the date of building (1585-86) and the name of the Shah who ordered it to be built. The inscription has rosettes with plant ornaments on either side.
- The Tsarist period city in the Buffer Zone This lies outside the Inner Walled City, nominated for World Heritage inscription, but constitutes a buffer zone protecting the setting of the latter. During the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, Baku was one of the major centres of oil production in the world. This generated substantial wealth, as can be seen by the high quality of the buildings dating from this period. The main conservation problem with these concerns the balconies, which were formed of stone slabs supported by slender iron girders. Decay of the stone and rusting of the ironwork has led many of them to be replaced in concrete, usually with the concurrent loss of their supporting stones consoles.


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