Landscape of the fortress in Sudak. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko
Landscape of the fortress in Sudak. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko

What do the towers of the Genoese fortress tell about


Many fortresses in the south of the Crimea during his reign in the XVI-XV centuries. left us a legacy of the Genoese.

Expanding the scope of trade operations after the Crusades and fighting against its rival – the Venetian Republic, Genoa sought with the support of Byzantium to monopolize trade in the Black Sea. From 1169, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus (in other sources, Isaac the Angel) allowed the Genoese to sail freely across the Bosphorus and visit the Black Sea coast. However, in 1204, as a result of the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders stormed Constantinople and appointed their emperor. The passage of Genoese ships into the Black Sea has been complicated by excessive customs duties. In 1261, the Latin Empire of the Crusaders was overthrown, and the Byzantine Empire was restored – not without the participation of Genoa. Emperor Michael the Palaeologus thanked the Allies for granting a monopoly on trade in the Black Sea – which they took advantage of,regaining dominance in the Black Sea region. However, in 1265 the Byzantine emperor also allowed the Venetians into the Black Sea – to counterbalance Genoa. Within a year, the Genoese obtained from the protege of the Golden Horde in the Crimea Mangu Khan the transfer to their possession of Kafa (modern Theodosia), which later became the center of their colonies. From 1268 (according to other sources – 1318) there was a Roman Catholic diocese, which covered all Italian settlements in the Crimea. From 1289 to 1453, the supreme ruler of Kafa was the Doge of the Republic of Genoa, who annually appointed his consuls to the Crimea, who exercised power over the colonies on the Black Sea coast and swore allegiance to the Statute on the peninsula.

In 1293-1299 between Venice and Genoa continued the war for supremacy in the Black Sea, in which the latter won. Under the peace agreement, the Venetians agreed not to enter the Black Sea for the next three decades: as a result, Venice completely lost control of the region. In 1318 the Genoese established themselves in Vosporo, which was also called Cerchio: in 1332 a diocese of the Catholic Church was founded here. There was also a diocese in Sarson (Chersonese). In 1340 (in other sources – 1343 or 1357) Genoa captured Chembalo (modern Balaklava), and in 1365 – Soldayu (modern Sudak), displacing the Venetians; at the same time a Catholic diocese was founded here. The redistribution of possessions in the northern Black Sea coast between the Genoese and Venetian republics was completed after the war of 1350-1355. In 1380,the Genoese infantry took part in the Battle of Kulikovo on the side of Mamaia; At the same time, the Golden Horde Khan Tokhtamysh agreed to recognize Genoa as the entire Crimean coast from Chersonesos to Kerch, where the following possessions were located – Kafa, Soldaya , Chembalo, Mangup, Jalita (Yalta), Lupiko (Alupka), Gorzuvium, Parte Alushta), Vosporo, Solkhat (Old Crimea), etc. These territories eventually became the basis of the Captaincy of Gothia.

In 1453 the Ottomans took Constantinople: the Byzantine Empire collapsed. Genoa ceded the Black Sea colonies to its bank San Giorgio (St. George). In 1473 the Crimean Khanate became dependent on the Ottoman Empire. In 1475, the Italian colonies in the northern Black Sea region, together with the principality of Theodore, ceased to exist after the Ottoman conquest.

Those buildings, the remains of which have survived to this day, are now reconstructed or significantly destroyed. But when even in a conversation with a man who knows the peninsula only from the pictures, say the phrase “Genoese fortress” – in her imagination will be the most famous, built in the vicinity of Sudak on a cone-shaped mountain, which is an ancient coral reef. However, before the Genoese expelled their current Venetian compatriots from these lands and “christened” this area Soldiers, the Byzantines in the VI-VII centuries began to build fortifications in the then Sugdei. But some fortifications in the modern Sudak region were erected long before the arrival of the Byzantine Empire, in the IV century.


Panorama. Towers of the Sudak fortress. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko
Panorama. Towers of the Sudak fortress. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko

In general, the fortress had two tiers of defense, between which the city was located. The Port Tower, or Frederico Astagverra Tower, is located outside the walls; it was connected by walls to the Corner Tower and to the tower on Mount Palvani-oba. This defensive line protected the territory of the old port of Soldai. The lower defensive tier, about a kilometer long, was a massive outer wall 6-8 m high and 1.5-2 m thick, fortified with fourteen 15-meter battle towers and the Main Gate complex. Plates with medieval Latin inscriptions and heraldic symbols were built into the walls of some towers: the coat of arms of Genoa, on the left – the coat of arms of the ruling doge, on the right – the coat of arms of Consul Soldai.A separate object of interest are the towers of the fortress, each of which deserves a separate study. In total, there are more than one and a half dozen, and many of them were named after the Genoese consuls, under whom they were built: Guard (St. Elijah’s Tower, Maiden’s Tower, guard. № 010071/1), Kutova Corner Nameless, guard. № 010071/15), Consular (guard. № 010071/16) and St. George’s (guard. № 010071/17) towers, built in the XIV-XV centuries, Round (Semicircular) tower (1385-1414, guard. № 010071/6), Jacobo Torcelo Tower (1385, protected № 010071/2), Frederico Astagverra Tower (Portova, 1386, protected № 010071/13), Giovanni Marioni Tower (1387, protected № 010071/10), the tower of Pasquale Judice (1392, guard. № 010071/5), the tower of Ґvarco Rumbaldo Baldo Guarco, 1394, guard. № 010071/11),the tower of Corrado Chicalo (1404, guard. № 010071/7), the tower of Lucini Flesco Lavani (1409, guard. № 010071/8), the tower of Bernardo (Bernabo) Franco Pagan (Oriental Pribramna, 1414, guard. № 010071/4), as well as three nameless towers – XIV-XV centuries. (№7, protection № 010071/9), 1375-1414 (Upper Nameless, №3, protection № 010071/18) and 1385-1414 (№19, protection № 010071/12).

All towers of the lower tier, except the arsenal, did not have an inner wall – probably to: 1) save money and time (the consul was appointed from Genoa for one year, and during this time he had to build either a tower or part of a fortified wall); 2) construction control (in particular, from the Consular Castle through the open wall it was clear what the builders are doing); 3) security (in case of capture of the tower by the enemy it could be easily destroyed by shelling from the city through an open wall).

The round (semicircular) tower, the only one in the fortress, has a semicircular shape. Only its lower tier has survived; from the second to the present day only the basis has survived. There is an assumption that it was built by the Byzantines. An older masonry was found under the tower. During excavations in 1928, the remains of polished pottery and other objects of Taurian origin were found in the lowest layer of the earth. Between the Round Tower and the Lavan Tower, archaeologists have discovered the remains of another rectangular tower.

The Jacobo Torcelo Tower is located in the central part of the outer line of defense; on the east side is the only city gate of Soldai. On the heraldic slab built into the eastern wall of the tower, it is written in Latin that it was built in 1385 during the reign of Consul Solday Jacob Torcelo. In 1972, excavations were carried out here: under the foundations of the tower were found the remains of defensive walls and towers of the Byzantine era (XII-XIII centuries). The tower is built of gray-brown sandstone on a lime mortar, the masonry of the walls on the inside is made of ledges, on which are laid floor slabs. Above the walls of the tower are teeth mounted on stone consoles. The bottom of the tower was fortified with a buttress, which performed not only the engineering function of strengthening its base, but also combat: stones bounced off it,thrown down by the defenders of the fortress, which increased the area and the possibility of defeating the enemy.The building ruled over the guard room, and the barracks of the local garrison, where the soldiers lived permanently, was located here; fragments of frescoes indicate the presence of a garrison chapel. Probably there could be customs here. Archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of the fourth wall of the tower, which covered it from the city.

Federico Astagverra’s tower could have been the residence of the commander of Soldai. Due to its structure, it could function autonomously, ie it was possible to stay inside during the siege for a long time. The tower was also adapted for circular defense. Its upper tier is topped with small teeth that additionally protect the archers (today they are partially lost). Each wall, except the northern one, is covered with plaster. In general, the building material was local – shell rock, which is traditionally used for construction in the Crimea today, contained a lime mortar with the addition of broken bricks. The builders, most likely, were also local, as evidenced by the nature of the masonry. Instead, the architectural style is Western European, from the Middle Ages. Perestroika is not recorded.The archaeological layer has been studied to the level of the tower floor.

Giovanni Marioni’s open-plan three-story tower, located more than 100 meters from the Main Gate complex, still retains an image of three shields with heraldic coats of arms depicting a lion, a cross and a jagged field on the north wall under the date of completion.

The battle tower of Pasquale Judice is well preserved; it is located between the Nameless and Round (Semicircular) towers. Its lower tier was an arsenal, and in winter ruled the guard room with a fireplace for heating. The second tier was combat: its narrow vertical embrasures are designed for archery and crossbows. The windows in the walls of the third floor are wide and rectangular – for ballistic shooting. The upper, fourth tier is protected by merlons.

The tower of Svarko Rumbaldo, judging by the mortgage inscription, “the melon in the whole city was built surprisingly large with great effort”; according to another version of the decryption of the inscription, after its construction, any work on the construction of towers throughout the city was to be stopped. It is located in the northwestern part of the lower tier of the fortress fortifications. The masonry of the walls on the inside is made of ledges, on which the beams of the floors are supported. In the lower tiers of the tower – loopholes, in the upper – windows, embrasures. The tower was completed with Merlon teeth, which surrounded the area of ​​the upper tier.

The Corrado Chicalo Tower was originally a closed corner; today it is the penultimate in the south-eastern part. It has an entrance only from the second tier of the western wall of the battlefield. In the first tier there were warehouses of provisions and weapons, and the second and third were intended for combat – here slit-like loopholes were cut. This is the only four-walled tower in the entire system of the defense complex, which is perfectly preserved to this day, but the smallest building of all the towers. It is located on the north-eastern flank of the line of defense, 50 meters from the Lucini Flesco Lavani tower, which is connected by a wall. Performed the functions of the central defense point in the eastern part of the fortress.

The three-storey Lukini Flesco Lavani tower of the closed-open type is the only three-walled tower of the fortress with the remains of a vault. In the first closed tier it is practically deaf, and for defense it has slit-like loopholes with chambers, one on each of the walls (on the second tier) and embrasures of 80 × 70 cm with chambers (on the third tier). In the year the tower was built, Genoa lost its independence and came under the rule of the French kingdom.

Bernardo’s Tower (Bernabo) Franco Pagana (East Gate) is located east of the main gate at an angle, overlooking the outer gate. Three-walled, three-story. The lower tier of the tower is equipped with loopholes; on the upper tier there are four embrasures, similar to those in the west tower. Inside, you can clearly see the consoles for wooden floors. Stairs were found near the southern base, which the soldiers climbed to the tower and walls. The tower was built on the ruins of a copper foundry XII-XIV centuries.

Nameless tower №7 – two-storey, open type; is the last on the east side. When and by whom it was built – is not established. The tower with a stone staircase connecting it with the fortress wall could be an independent unit of defense of the fortress.

The upper nameless tower (№3) is located in the upper tier of the fortifications, on a rock facing the city. From the east it is connected by a fortress wall with St. George’s Tower. From the west, the fortress wall was completely destroyed to the tower, of which only the base and a fragment with the base of the loophole have survived. Nests remained from wooden fighting moves. The tower is a single-storey, open type, topped with rack-and-groove teeth that enclosed the battlefield. The wooden floor rested on the ledges of the walls. In 1971 it was restored: potholes were laid, destroyed sections of masonry were filled, the eastern wall was reinforced with a reinforced concrete belt, and teeth were restored. At the same time, a section of the wall adjacent to St. George’s Tower was restored.

Tower №19 is the penultimate in the northwestern part of the lower fortifications. It was three-tiered, open type. Only the base of the tower and the north wall without merlons have survived. On the north side of the wall there is a nest, which was a plate with the date of construction and the inscription.

The upper tier of the fortress consisted of the Consular Castle and the towers connected to it by a wall, which ran along the very ridge of the mountain, as well as a complex of two-story Watchtower on top of the mountain: from the last only three walls remained There are traces of a fireplace, niches and stone stairs. At the end of the XIX century. on one of the walls of the tower was clearly visible a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary in the Catholic style: it was probably a home chapel. Next to the Watchtower is Kutova: an inscription on a slab built into the wall allows us to accurately date the building to 1386. Another 27 slabs with crosses of various shapes are embedded in the wall of the tower; on either side of it, two pools were cut into the rock, filled with water from a small stream. The consular castle is a complex of buildings,which consists of a dungeon (main tower) and St. George’s Tower in the northeast corner of the fortress. Both towers are connected by thick walls, between which is a courtyard. The St. George’s Tower got its name from the bas-relief image of George the Victorious, which once adorned a small slab above a niche with a rounded top on the ground floor.

The consular castle was the main node of the upper line of defense of the fortress. It was the residence of the ruler and the residence of the city government. The consuls came mainly from the noble families of Genoa and had never been to Solday before taking office – such rules were established so that the consul could not use his position for selfish purposes (for his service he received a fixed salary). The entrance to the castle was the only gate to the courtyard, separated by a small barbican.

According to Soldai’s laws, consuls were forbidden to go outside the fortress walls, especially during the war, so they spent most of their time in the castle walls, which were connected by a drawbridge to the rest of the upper belt of fortifications. It had everything you need to withstand a long defense and even a siege. In case of siege, a secret exit was arranged on the south side of the slope, which led to a narrow path to the shore through a crack in the rock. In the south tower of the castle for special protection of this trail were built additional loopholes, aimed at securing the way. The consular tower combined the functions of housing and defense, food storage, water storage and probably an arsenal. In the basement there were warehouses, as well as a tank with a capacity of 40 cubic meters for water storage.One of the ceramic pipes is laid to the tank from the fortress wall in the western direction; another, built into the thickness of the eastern wall, was used to drain rainwater from the battlefield of the upper tier. The rooms of the second and third tiers were heated by fireplaces. In the east wall of the second floor there was a door, which could be entered only by stairs from the courtyard (wide stone stairs were built later). In the western wall of the same room there were another door that overlooked the fortress wall and connected to the wall by a drawbridge. On the east side of the castle, on the second floor, there is a built-in arched niche, decorated with the remains of a medieval painting: it was probably a personal altar for the consul. On the third floor – wide Venetian windows.In the south wall there was a door through which a ladder could lead to the third floor.Above the vault of the upper tier was a battlefield, surrounded by Merlon teeth with loopholes, which around the perimeter of the tower rest on the inside on the wall, and on the outside – on the console in the form of a two-tiered arched belt. On the north and west sides at the foot of the tower there is a special slope in the form of a buttress, which protected the walls from rams and served to ricochet stones towards the enemy.

Landscape of the fortress in Sudak. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko
Landscape of the fortress in Sudak. Photo by Tatiana Moskalenko

The corner tower is located in the northwest corner of the castle; connects with the Consular Tower by fortress walls that form a courtyard. The tower is two-storey, open type. The masonry of the walls is made with ledges in each tier, on which the floor beams rested. Ended with teeth-merlons. In the northern and western walls – loopholes. The northern wall of the Corner Tower reaches 4.2 m in length, the western – 6.2 m. In 1971 the tower was restored – potholes were laid, the lost masonry was filled, Merlons and the adjacent walls of the courtyard were restored. Before the restoration of the Corner Tower, excavations were carried out at the base of its outer walls. Near the north-western corner of the tower was found the foundation of the defensive wall of pre-Genoese times, covered by the corner of the Genoese tower.The corner tower was badly damaged. Restorers dismantled the preserved walls, because their outer shell was in poor condition, and then re-laid the walls to the level of the upper slabs of the loopholes, ie up to about 4 m in height. In the southern wall of the tower there is a restored gate, which you can go from the upper city and go down the stairs to the area of ​​the medieval port.The watchtower was the residence of the commander of the entire citadel. It is located on the very top of the mountain, at an altitude of 160 m. It offers a panorama where you can see every mountain in the north and the entire coast up to Cape Ayu-Dag. However, climbing it with ancient stairs, polished by time, is dangerous. Earlier, the Watchtower was connected to the Upper Nameless Tower by a wall span, now almost lost. She ruled over the main checkpoint of the fortress from the sea and land; there is a possibility that at night the tower rules behind the lighthouse, giving signals to the ships. The tower once had rich frescoes, a fireplace heating system and semicircular vaults. The ceiling of the first floor was vaulted.

On the east side, a gate was built in the wall near the St. George’s Tower, through which a path led from the city to the citadel, traces of which have been preserved. The gate was protected by a rectangular fortification, the longitudinal wall of which protected the gate from shelling from the city. The tower is two-tiered, rectangular in plan with a north-east corner cut out of the gate. In the first tier, covered with a vault, there was a chapel. There are traces of a fresco depicting a human figure in a long outstretched dress floating in the air. To the east of the chapel is a necropolis. According to archaeological research, the bodies of the dead were buried in weak sarcophagi, according to all Christian rites. These burials testify to the affiliation of the dead to the religion according to which the services were held in the chapel.Remains of destroyed foundations of unknown buildings were found near the tower. It is considered that this area in ancient times was densely populated; probably in these houses once lived the city nobility. The second tier, open on the south side, has only three walls and ends with teeth-merlons. The floor of the second tier was flat wooden. In the walls on each tier there are seven loopholes, outside there are several small slabs. In 1969 the monument was restored – the lost parts of the walls were restored, there were no Merlon teeth, no entrance and floor in the chapel, the remains of frescoes were fixed.

In 1475, Ottoman troops landed on the coast near the fortress, using catapults to throw corps disguised as plague victims over the walls. Panic broke out in the fortification: the consul with the mercenary army fled by sea, and the inhabitants surrendered at the mercy of the conquerors – after which all died from their weapons. After the capture of Crimea by the Russian Empire in the second half of the XVIII century. the Kirillov Regiment was stationed here. The 1960s were marked by an attempt to restore the original appearance of the fortress, but the work was not completed: moreover, one of the walls built by Soviet builders collapsed.

After the Russian occupation of Crimea, hotel premises and additional toilets were built on the territory of the fortress. As a result, in November 2015, one of the towers of the fortress collapsed.

The “management” of the newly created museum, instead of properly restoring the monument, decided to quickly “fix the situation” by hiring builders without experience in the restoration of historic sites. As a result, a banal copy of the dilapidated tower was built on an ordinary concrete foundation made of authentic stone using modern cement mortar.

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Sergii Konashevich

Author of numerous culturological publications, editor of Ukrainian Culture Publishing House LLC

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