The Maiden TowerArchitectural features of the Maiden Tower. Part 1.

The Maiden Tower, one of the most significant monuments of Baku, keeps a lot of secrets. It is still not known nor the exact purpose or date of construction of the monument. Existing versions and guesses are often refer to the genre of non-scientific fiction, and do not take into account the structural and architectural features of the tower. Transformation and restoration works conducted at different times significantly changed the original concept of the architect and made the study of the tower even more complicated. In addition, after the last restoration work performed in mid-1960's, almost all the documentation on the changes disappeared from the archives and now the scale of alterations are left to guess.

In order to restore the original design, I tried to give a description of some architectural features which are of great importance for studying the tower. In this case, I used the new assumptions and facts from the book "The Maiden Tower in Baku" by Abbas Islamov (he is my friend and we jointly study the ancient monuments of Absheron) as well as some of my own observations. Describing the architectural features, I tried not to touch the descriptions of rituals, which could take place in the tower.


Maiden Tower had no overlap between the levels and it was hollow inside.

One of the main alterations that have changed the original look and design of the architect was the construction of floors within the building. Originally the tower had no overlap between the floors. This is evident from the picture of Kempfer (1683), which showed the tower in cut, from the pictures published before the "restoration" of the 1960's, and from the stories of old people who have seen the tower before restoration.

Figure of Kempfer (1683), on which the tower is shown in the cut. Arches between floors are missing. Picture of Bretanitskiy (1950), performed before restoration.

Instead of overlaps between floors there were narrow annular projections along the walls (up to 80 cm in width) which separated tower to 8 tiers. These projections had special grooves for water drainage. Not being able to explain the purpose of the tower, "restorers" headed by Mamikonov announced that it was fortifications, and in 1960 made their restoration, and in fact adaptations, in accordance with that concept. Assuming that the defenders were hiding on the floors of the tower during the siege, the restorers built ceilings on all levels, destroying the original idea of hollow tower.


Maiden Tower was being constructed simultaneously as a single structure.

Composite volume of the tower consists of two parts - a smooth bottom and ribbed upper. From this perspective, some researchers have speculated that the tower was constructed in two phases - the lower part was built first and then after a few centuries the ribbed top. However, the study of proportions and design of the tower and interrelatedness of parts leaves no doubt that the tower was constructed on a single concept, in the same period of time. If we denote the height of the ribbed part of the master cylinder by A and the smooth part by B, the same proportion observed in vertically adjacent to the tower, but on the contrary - the smooth part of the protrusion is equal to A and B. The diameter of the tower D is equal to ribbed part of the tower A. Thus, the entire tower can be inscribed in a square.

The proportions of the tower The main window is situated in the center of the tower

Ratio of A and B is close enough to the "golden section" in which a large part of the segment belongs to the smaller part to as much as whole segment to the large part (A + B / A = A / B). It is believed that the objects that contain a "golden section" are perceived by people as the most harmonious, and they are widely used in the ancient world. In particular, the proportions of the pyramid of Cheops, the Egyptian temples and the ancient Greek Parthenon correspond to relations of the "golden section".

The location of the main window of the tower is also remarkable. If we consider the unfolding of the tower, one can notice that the main window is designed in the center of the sweep. It divides the smooth bottom and ribbed upper parts into two equal halves. Thus, using a variety of architectural techniques the ancient creator of this facility managed to achieve a strong artistic expression, blending two different solutions for vertical level into a single composition.


A wall with two projections is part of the tower original design.

Usually people describe the tower as a large cylindrical volume and projection, which is adjacent to it. However, the tower can not be considered without adjacent (fence) with two bulges to its rear wall. This fence was never part of the fortress walls, as it is sometimes presented. The old city plans show that the tower was located inside the fortress walls and adjacent was apart from them. It is an integral part of the design of the tower, though its purpose is not fully understood.

The adjacent (fence) with two bulges is an integral part of the design of the tower.  The old city plans show that the tower was located inside the fortress walls and adjacent was apart from them.


Part of the wall adjacent to the tower, was completed during the "restoration".

Part of the wall adjacent to the tower was redesigned during the "restoration" of the 1960. As seen from the drawings done before the restoration, the wall had only two bulges and ended almost at the trailing edge of the tower. During the "restoration" the wall was continued and completed with third bulge, which is not part of the original design of the tower. The border of the new part can be easily distinguished on the wall.

Originally there were only 2 bulges Old plan of the tower The border of the new part can be easily distinguished on the wall


A stone slab with an inscription was built into the former niche or window.

The Maiden Tower has a two-row Arabic inscription written on a stone slab and mounted on the surface of the tower in the upper right of the entrance. The inscription reads: "Gubba (dome, vault) of Masud ibn Dawood". For a long time the tower was dated XII century by this inscription. However this stone slab was not in the original design and appeared on the tower later, as it casually and carelessly mount into the masonry. It locates not above the main entrance as usually, but somewhere at the side, at a height of 14 meters above the ground. Most likely, the slab with the inscription is a tombstone, which during the repair patched the window in the tower. On examination one can see that there was a square niche or window on this place. After installation of the stone slab the upper part of the niche was patched with random stone plate, and the gaps around were closed up with mortar (that was not in use during the original construction of the tower). The fact that the on-site slab was a window, indirectly confirmed by its location - a niche located almost on par with the main window of the tower, but on the opposite side from it.

The stone plate with the inscription did not exist initially and was let into the masonry later. The gaps around were closed up with mortar that does not exist on the front surface of the tower. A niche located almost on par with the main window of the tower, but on the opposite side from it.


Mortar appeared on the ribbed side of the tower later, probably in the XII century.

If compare the front (south-west) and rear (north-eastern) sides of the tower, one can note that the ribbed surface of the rear part was smeared with mortar. This mortar was partially crumbled, but it still covers almost the entire rear surface. The front part of the tower is almost free from mortar, and it is clear that it never been there. It is difficult to imagine that mortars were used during the construction of the tower to gloss the ribbed surface - why build a ribbed surface and then try to align it with a solution. In addition, the remnants of a similar mortar were found around the slab with inscription which let into the surface of the tower in the XII century. Thus, we can assume that in the XII century the Maiden Tower was "renovated". During these works some of the old stones in the lower parts were replaced (around these stones the remnants of the mortar can be seen), the entire northern side of the tower smeared with lime mortar, and slab with inscription was let into the existing niche (this slab is likely to immortalize the name of the master who carried out the work). We can only guess what other changes have been made at the time.

The rear (northern) part of the tower, with traces of the mortar on the entire surface. The front (southern) portion of the tower with mortar just around the building inscription.


Entrance to the tower was rebuilt.

As seen from old photos, the entrance to the tower originally was rectangular. During the "restoration" works the entrance was redesigned. It was enlarged and a rectangular arch was replaced with a semi-circular. Since the semicircular arches appeared in the history later than overlain, apparently the replacement was made to give the tower a more "medieval" look.

On the postcard (beginning of XX century) the entrance to the tower is rectangular  Current entrance after reconstruction.


The central window of the tower was rectangular and smaller.

The tower has one main window which is bigger than all others. Now this window has a semicircular top, but if compare it with the image on old photos, one can see that it was originally rectangular and smaller. The shape and size of the windows were altered during the restoration of the 1960's.

At an old photo the height of a large window coincided with the dimensions of the narrow window beside him. After the restoration the window became higher, and its top has acquired a semi-circular shape.