Giz Galasy, Baku Vicinity
The most magnificent and mysterious landmark of Baku and in particular “Icheri-sheher” is “Gyz Galasy” – “The Maiden Tower”. It has no analogues in entire Orient and is considered an unofficial symbol of Baku. The cylindrically-shaped tower was constructed on a ledge of the rock jutting into the Caspian Sea . It is made from grey limestone and converges to its top. Therefore its walls thickness at the basis is 5 m, and at the top – 4 m. The tower stands 29.5 m tall, its diameter is 16.5 m. Inside Gyz Galasy is divided into 8 tiers. Each of them is covered by a stone dome with a round aperture. The access to the very top is possible by means of winding stone stairs. The wonderful view of entire Baku bay opens from there. There is a 21 m well inside the tower. The water there was pure and fresh. The light got inside the tower through narrow loophole-type windows. The tower’s age is still a subject of historical disputes. In classical history the time of its construction is defined by 12th century. So says a Kufi inscription on the outside tower part (at the height of 14 m from the ground): “gubba” (dome) of Massud ibn Davud”. But many historians argue this point of view saying that the slab in the brickwork appeared later to fill up a gap in the wall.
Having studied the lime mortar and the color of the stones used for the tower construction, the scientists assume that it was erected not earlier than the 1st century (the most ancient building constructed with such mortar was found in Gabala and is dated 1st century AD), but not later than 10th century AD (as the stones used for construction of the tower and Mohammed’s mosque are practically identical). And finally the others consider that at exterior comparison of the brickwork it is clearly seen that the lower tier of the structure is much older than the upper one. Thus, the tower was built in 2 stages: the bottom part of the monument (up to 13.7 m ) had been constructed in the 5th-6th centuries, and the upper part was completed in the 12th century. What was the purpose of this tower? It was poorly suitable for defense because of its small area. Narrow window apertures did not serve well for resisting enemy attacks. Most likely originally the tower was constructed as a Zorasatrian temple of fire: in those times people were not buried – their corpses were exposed to predatory birds. But in the 12th century “Gyz Galasy” was one of the most powerful strongholds of Shirvan Dynasty. In the 18th – 19th centuries the Maiden Tower was used as a beacon. “Maiden” means “unsubdued”, “impregnable”.
Local residents’ legend runs as follows: “The Shah fell in love with his own daughter and decided to marry her. Terrified by the forthcoming marriage with her father and in attempt to dissuade him, the daughter asked her father to build a tower in hope that during construction her father would change his mind. But the Shah did not change his decision so the girl climbed up the tower and jumped from it into the sea”.
According to another legend, the biblical one, it was near “The Maiden Tower” where Saint Bartholomew, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, was executed. Bartholomew appeared on Baku ‘s territory in the 1st century AD popularizing Christianity among pagans. However, Bartholomew’s doctrine was rejected and he was executed near the walls of “The Maiden Tower”. The place of the execution is marked by a small chapel. In Fact it was absolutely real and is clearly visible in the 1890 photo of “The Maiden Tower”. Inside the tower there is a museum. Its collection consists of ancient utensils, carpets, amusing installations showing life in the 18th-19th centuries: oil recovery from a well by means of a bucket, a supper in chaikhana, etc. The tower has been repeatedly restored. Presently the big market place and surrounding arcade have been renewed. Since 2000 it has been in the list of UNESCO monuments.