The Shirvanshahs’ Burial-vault

The family burial-vault of the Shirvanshahs is of a rectangular shape and crowned with a hexahedral cupola which is decorated from outside with multi-radial stars. In the past the planes of the cupola’s hollows were bricked with blue glaze. This is also confirmed by I.Lerkh, the traveller, visiting Baku in 1733. He points out, “The roof (burial-vault) was covered with stones of azure colour.”

The inscription on the entrance doorway indicates the purpose of the building, “Khalil-Ullah I, the greatest Soltan, Great Shirvanshah, the namesake of the divine prophet, the defender of the religion ordered to construct this light burial-vault for his mother and son in the year of 839” (1435-1436). On the pointer of the entrance doorway there is a hexahedral rosette with the name of Ali reiterated 12 times. An inscription from the Koran, glorifying Allah crowns the top of the portal.

On 2 drop-shaped medallions in the flannel parts of the portal there are inscriptions with the architect’s name – Memar (architect) Ali. On each medallion one and the same inscription is repeated twice: in a direct and mirror reflection. With great art and skill did the architect cut on the shah’s burial-vault his own name which had remained unknown for long years and was read only in 1945 by the Azerbaijani scholars.

The centre of the building is a sepulchral place with a cupola. According to some sources in 1501 after Shirvanshah Farrukh Yassar’s death, Shah Ismayil’s troops captured the fortress of Baku and committed the remains of the deceased in the burial-vault to the flames. The archaeologists’ work in 1945 refuted this version. A vault with 5 burials covered with tombstones was discovered under the wooden floor of the burial-vault. It was made known that in three tombs there had been buried adults and in the two others - children. As the work continued in the burial-vault a more number of untouched tombs were found out which totalled 14. These burial-places were the graves of the family members of the Shirvanshahs. The tombs turned out to be intact, but the tombstones were missing.

The archaeological work confirmed the existing inscriptions by proving that here were buried Bika khanym – Shirvanshah Khalil-Ullah’s mother and his son, and the other members of the family too. During the clearing of the burials were found the remains of the material (tirma) with the traces of geometrical ornament, with medallions within which were woven inscriptions in the Arabic print, several blue beads, a gold pin with a turquoise and 6 rubies, gold earrings. At present these materials are kept in the funds of the History Museum of Azerbaijan.