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 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.


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.


The level of the first floor was renovated and brought up.

At a height of about 4.5 meters, the first floor of the tower was actually twice as high as all the others. It looked completely different, and was substantially redone during the "restoration". Firstly, the floor level at the entrance was lowered by about a meter. Now, at the entrance to the tower, you have to climb several steps to approach the spiral staircase. Initially, the entire ground floor was at level with a bottom of spiral staircase. The floor of the tower was filled with cobblestones and large stones, and this was an important part of the design. Now the floor is paved with stone plates. Secondly, a ceramic pipe that passes through the whole structure from top to bottom had an opening on the ground floor. This pipe opening was walled up.

On the drawing (1950s), a dotted line shows a ceramic pipe running through the entire tower from top to bottom with opening on the ground floor. Inside the tower, directly above the entrance (next to the lamp) there was an opening of a ceramic pipe. Now the opening of the ceramic pipe is walled up.


Entrance to the first floor was not part of original design and was opened later.

Now, in order to enter inside the tower there is an entrance on the ground floor. During the construction of the tower, this entrance was absent and was opened later. Some signs indicate that the entrance was not part of original design. 1) The entrance to the tower is not opened directly from the ground, but raised - now you need to climb the iron stairs to the entrance. At the entrance to the tower, the passage in the 5-meter wall has an upward slope and a stepped ceiling. And even once inside the tower you have to climb 1.5 meters to the level of the ground floor. This is difficult to explain if the passage was arranged during the construction of the tower. It would be much easier to build a horizontal passage along the entire thickness of the walls directly from the ground. But the fact is that initially there was no passage to the ground floor. Later, when it was decided to open the entrance to the tower from ground, it turned out that the level of the ground floor inside is several meters higher than the ground level outside. Therefore, it was decided to raise the entrance from the outside 1.5 meters above the ground, inside the ground floor the floor level was lowered , and then the outer and inner points were connected with an inclined step passage.
2) Inside the tower there is a ceramic pipe through which liquid flowed down. The pipe opens on the ground floor directly above the current entrance. If the passage existed during the construction of the tower, then the liquid poured directly on the head of the incoming person. It is hard to imagine that this was intended during the construction of the tower.

Modern view of the entrance to the tower. The entrance is raised 1.5 meters above ground. The entrance was opened from the back of the tower, which has its own justification. The tower is located on an inclined cliff, and in this place the difference between the ground level outside and inside the tower is minimal. Entrance to the tower based on a real scan:
a - camera on the ground floor;
b - passage to the tower;
1 - height from the ground at the entrance;
2 - height at the entrance to the ground floor;
3 - height at the floor level on the ground floor.
To open the passage into the tower, the entrance from the outside to the top was raised (1), the floor level inside (from level 3 to level 2) was lowered, and then the external and internal points (levels 1 and 2) were connected with an inclined step passage.


Entrance to the tower was rebuilt.

As seen from old photos, the entrance to the tower was rectangular. During the "restoration" works the entrance was redesigned. It was enlarged and a rectangular arch was replaced with a semi-circular. The replacement was made to give the tower a more "medieval" look.

On the postcard from beginning of XX century the entrance to the tower was rectangular  Current entrance after reconstruction.


The main window served as an entrance to the tower.

During the construction of the tower, there was no entrance from the ground floor, and people entered the tower through the main window. If you look from the inside, you can notice that the window starts almost from the floor level and the lower base of the window looks like a threshold. The stones on the threshold are rather worn and probably people walked through it quite often. Most likely some construction or wooden platform existed in front of the tower to help access the window-entrance on such height. Remains of protruding stones on the surface of the tower under the window also indicate an existence of the such platform.

The main window-entrance. There are some stone ledges on the wall under the main window-entrance. They were probably part of some platform with which it was likely existed to help access to the window.

On the left inside of the window there is a niche about 20 cm in diameter and 70-80 cm in depth. The lower part of the niche has worn off a semicircle. Perhaps the niche was used for a log, which served as a lock for window-entrance.

The main window-entrance - view from the inside. On the left is a niche that is likely used for bolt and bar. Niche to the left of the window. The lower part has worn off a semicircle, perhaps by a log.


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 semi-circular 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.


There was no stairs on the first floor (ground level).

To move from level to level there are stairs in the thickness of the walls that start from the second level. How did people raise from the first to the second level according to the original concept is not completely clear. Whatever it was, at the beginning of XIX century the Navy Department erected a wooden staircase to the second floor within the tower. After "restoration" of the 1960's, when the tower was redesigned in accordance with the defensive concept, it was announced that from first to second level people supposedly rose by a rope, which was removed during the siege. During the work the entire first floor was renovated and now you can rise to the second floor by installed spiral iron staircase. However, it is highly unlikely that the architect of this perfect monument missed the stairs and let people to climb on the five-meter height of the second level on the rope. Explanation by the defence necessity is also not tenable. Having mastered the first floor, the enemy could easily stage a fire to "smoke out" the defenders from all upper levels.

I guess, and it is quite possible that the entrance to the tower on the first floor didn't exist at all and the entrance to the tower was through the main window. Entering through the main window then it was possible to come down up to the second floor. The stair to the first floor (ground level) didn't exist because it was not necessary to descend down to the as first floor served for water collection (see below).


© Copyright Faig Nasibov, 2008,