Genoese Fortress in Sudak
Genoese Fortress is a monument of medieval architecture of world-wide importance. This is the only fully surviving Genoese fortress in Crimea. The fortress was built by the Genoese from 1371 to 1489. It is located on an ancient coral reef, which represents a conical mount located near Sudak Bay in the Black Sea.
The fortress was built under design of Genoese military engineers and incorporated the best traditions of the Western Europe medieval architecture. The design of the fortress is strikingly perfect. It occupies an area of 29.5 hectares and is located on an ancient coral reef which is now a conical cliff. The fortress is impregnable from east and south, it’s hardly accessed from the west. A deep ditch blocks the way from north-east. The fortress has two levels of defense. The lower defense level represents a massive external wall 19-26 ft. tall and 5-6 ft. thick. The wall is reinforced with 14 combat towers each 49 ft. tall. Also it is reinforced by main entrance gates. The upper level consists of Consul castle, and of wall-linked towers, as well as of Look-out tower on the top.
Two-storey Look-out tower is located on the top of the cliff and its cross section has shape of irregular rectangle.
There are only three tower walls surviving, the fourth fell down into the sea. There are surviving remains of a fire-place, a niche, and a stone staircase. A fresco painting was still visible on one of the walls in the 19th century. It depicted Catholic Madonna, her heart punctured by seven swords. Most likely, it used to be a fortress chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Near the Look-out tower there is a Corner tower. The date of its construction can be precisely traced back to 1386 thanks to a plate embedded into its wall. There are 27 another plates installed in the walls of the tower with variously-shaped crosses. There are two pools carved out in the rock and located on the both sides of the tower. These pools were filled with water delivered from a small river.
Consul castle represents a whole complex of constructions, and it represents the most interesting part of the fortress. The main tower called a keep occupies the whole upper transversal area and is joined by thick walls with another tower located in north-eastern part of the fortress. There is a niche with circular top located on the first level of the tower. A small plate above it used to be decorated by a bas-relief of St. George, which gave name to the whole tower – Georgiyevskaya (Russian for “the tower of St. George.”)
The surviving inscriptions on gates and towers of the lower fortress wall are of particular interest. Under embrasures of Bernabo di Franci di Pagano tower there used to be a plate with inscription reading: “On 4th day of July, 1414, the construction of the present fortress was fully completed…”
The fate of an ancient temple inside the fortress is especially striking. Alexander Berthier-Delagarde and other scientists supposed that initially there had been a mosque built by the Seljuq Turks in 1220s. Later it was supposedly re-built into an Orthodox temple, and after that again modified into Catholic church by the Genoese. After Sudak was again taken by the Turks, the temple was converted into a mosque. And after annexation of Crimea by Russia, it served in turn as military church, German Kirche, and Armenian Catholic temple.
Nowadays Sudak Fortress is under protection of the state. Scientific research and restoration works are conducted on its territory.