THE MYSTERY OF MAIDEN TOWER
The grandest and the most mysterious monument of Baku is Giz Galasi (Maiden Tower) rising in the south-eastern part of Icheri Sheher (Old City). This unique construction of Azerbaijani architecture has no analogues in the East. The monument, the exact construction date and destination of which are still heatedly disputed, attracts attention most of all by its unique form.
The Tower was built on the jut of a coastal rock and is a cylinder laid from gray limestone, 28 m in height and 16,5 m in diameter. Thickness of walls at the base is 5 m, and at the higher part – 4 m. The ledge, the purpose of which is unknown, adjoins the Tower from the eastern side. The inner space of Tower is divided into eight stages. Each of them is barred with stone dome having round aperture. Light penetrates into the Tower through loophole-like narrow window hatches widening inside. The stages are connected with each other by the spiral stone staircase cut out in the thickness of walls.
Niches having ceramic pipe, 30 cm in diameter, laid inside are arranged inside the Tower walls. Inside the Tower there is a 21 m deep well which was punched out in the rock from the third stage towards the water-bearing layers. The exact date of Maiden Tower construction still remains undetermined. Most often the time of its construction is reported to be the 12th century. Besides, there is a museum inside the tower. Its collection consists of ancient utensils, carpets and some amusing installations showing the life in 18th – 19th centuries: oil extraction from a well by using a bucket, dinner in a tea-house and so on. However in the 12th century Maiden Tower was one of the strongest castles of Shirvanshah state. In the 18th –19th centuries Maiden Tower was used as a lighthouse.
There are many legends going around the origin of Maiden Tower. Most of them are connected with the meaning of “maiden” word. One of the legends says that shah fell in love with his daughter and decided to marry her. Trying to rescue herself from such a fate and dissuade her father from that the girl asked him to build a tower and wait until the construction was finished. But by the completion of construction the ruler had not changed his decision, and then the girl perched upon the tower top and threw herself into the sea. After that, the rock which the princess got smashed to, was called the “Rock of virgin”, and brides used to bring flowers to it.
There is also another version of this legend: after the girl threw herself into the sea, her beloved revenged himself killing the ruler, but got to know soon that mermaids had rescued the girl. After time passed, the two beloved could find each other and bond themselves with marriage ties.
The fact that father wanted to marry his daughter is noted by specialists as an evidence of pre-Islamic character of this legend. The legend also illustrates that the Caspian Sea swashed once right at the foot of Maiden Tower. As time passed, the sea receded and now is 100-150 m far from the Tower foot.
According to a biblical legend, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, Saint Bartholomew was executed near Maiden Tower. Saint Bartholomew appeared in the territory of Baku in the 1st century popularizing Christianity among pagan tribes. Nevertheless Bartholomew’s doctrine was turned down and he was executed by the walls of Maiden Tower. Later on, a small chapel was built at the place of his execution.
In the 12th century the Tower was included into the defensive system of Baku being the main stronghold of Baku castle and one of the strongest castles of Shirvanshahs. But all the later researches of Maiden Tower rejected completely any assumptions about the defensive destination of Tower. It provided defensive purposes neither with its shape nor with its interior arrangement, and was just unfit for that. Obvious example of this is the arrangement of its windows – there are only few of them in the whole Tower and all of them look up, not down.