The Guardians of Time: Caucasian Towers

And towered castles on the hard

precipice above the entry

to the Caucasus, in cloud stood guard

grim as some Cyclopean sentry!

М.Y. Lermontov

The beauty of Caucasus is charming. Many historical, cultural and natural attractions there attract people from all over the world. For me the Caucasus has always been associated with towers. They are an integral part of the highland scenery. This is the world of towers. Their simplicity of form, rigorous elegance, conciseness, monumentality reflect the spirit of mountaineers – courage, self-esteem, pride and cohesion. The construction and architectural craftsmanship of these unique towers is striking. Each is individual, since every master had his own style and methods of work.

According to one of the stories, from the early Christian era, the caravan routes that connected East and West used these towers as a lookout and signaling instrument. Tower complexes played an important role in the protection of the “Great Silk Road”

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There is also no unanimity among scientists in dating the first appearance of the fortifications. It is believed that the oldest was built in the 8 or 9 centuries AD. The real dawn of tower building falls in the Middle Ages, when the typical style of Caucasian towers with the characteristic and peculiar features of each nation had emerged.

The towers were used in transmission of signals to warn of a military threat against strategically important places such as roads, bridges or gorges. They provided shelter to withstand a siege and a stronghold to defend from. Generic towers could only be afforded by wealthy people of high social status. The cost of construction (if it was a family tower) was around 50-60 cows, and it took one year to build. In case of danger, the family hid in their defensive tower while a guard of usually 4 to 6 soldiers patrolled.

The entrance to the combat tower was located in a remote place, at a height taller than a human’s height. The towers were five to seven levels with loopholes and machicolations. The wall thickness at the bottom reached up to one meter. Defenders of the tower controlled all the approaches, making it very difficult to storm.

Sharaf al-Din Yazdi (“The Book of Victories” (1424-1425)) wrote about the Caucasian towers: “… fortresses and defenses on the top of the mountain, and to go there was extremely difficult due to their height, which was so great that the beholder’s eye blurred and the hat fell from the head … ”

Such towers have been built since ancient times. “And they said: we build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and we will make us a name, before we would be scattered all over the earth” (Bible, Old Testament. Genesis, chapter 11). Worldwide, similar towers can be seen in Ireland, Italy, China, Tibet, India, North America, but the Caucasian towers have their own unique architectural style and harsh charm. Their power and inviolability are a stunning symbol of the Caucasus.

text by Tatiana Lari

 

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