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 0.4×0.6 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 Gala 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 22×18 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.
Information from: Administration of State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” under Cabinet of Ministres of Azerbaijan