Located in the heart of the charming Icheri Sheher, the Shirvanshah’s Palace is with no doubt one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture. The Palace was built in the 15th Century by the shahs of Shirvan, a historical region in eastern Caucasus, after Ibrahim I of Shirvan moved the capital from Shamakhy to Baku following a devastating earthquake. The construction, despite having been built in different periods without a single plan, forms a beautiful, harmonious whole, which was classified by UNESCO as one of the places of outstanding value to humanity.
Originally constructed by the ruler of Shirvan, Khalilulla I, and his son, Farrukh, the palace had both religious and royal significance. Most of the construction work was done in the 15th century and it was stopped when Faruk was killed in a battle. The palace was also significantly damaged in 1806 when the shah of Shirvan, Mustafa, was forced to submit to Russian army. However, despite Azerbaijan’s turbulent history, most of the buildings – except the living premises and the hammam – are fairly well preserved.
The complex consists of the main two-storey residential building, a small stone pavilion called Divankhana (Royal Assembly), a tomb for royal family members, the mausoleum of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi (a famous astronomer of the time), the Palace Mosque, the bathhouse (hammam) and the Murad’s Gate (Eastern Portal).
Divankhana is arguably one of the most impressive buildings in the complex. The pavilion, which consists of an octahedral hall covered with a cupola, is situated in the center of a small courtyard surrounded by a gallery-arcade. The portal of the main entrance is decorated with fig and wine leaf ornaments and inscriptions in Arabic. The entrance is also adorned with two medallions containing inscriptions in Kufic Arabic. It is believed that Divankhana might have been meant as a mausoleum for Khalilullah I.
The building, known as well as the Turba, was constructed in 1435-1436 by Khalilulla I for his mother and his son Farrukh. His mother died in 1435 and his son died in 1442, at the age of seven. Additional tombs were discovered later on and it is thought that they might have belonged to other members of the Shah’s family, including two more sons who died during his own lifetime. The Turba is the only building of the complex where we know the name of the architect - ”Me’mar (architect) Ali” is carved into the design, but in reverse, as if reflected in a mirror. This was a precautionary measure as putting the architect’s name openly might have been considered arrogant and severly punished by the shah.
The palace bathhouse was discovered by chance in 1939 and it dates back to the 17th Century. It consists of 26 rooms, which are semi-underground for coolness in the summer and warmth during winter. For more detailed description of the palace’s architecture follow the links below.
When to visit
The palace is open daily from 9.00 till 18.00 and the entry fee costs about 2 AZN.