- Bakhchisaray
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Palace Square

Khan Mosque

Sarı Güzel Bath


Divan Hall
Summer Arbour
Smaller Mosque
Golden Fountain
"Fountain of Tears"
Living Rooms
Falcon Tower
Cemetery of Khans
Durbe of Dilara
- Giray dynasty
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Khan Palace in Bakhchisaray



The Portal of The Iron Door

The portal called Demir Qapı (the Iron Door) frames a massive door covered with strips of forged iron. This door was the main entrance into the khan residence for foreign envoys who waited for invitation to audiences in the Ambassadors’ Court.

The Portal represents the Venetian Renaissance style. It was designed by a Venetian architect Alvise Lamberti da Montagnana. Alvise visited Crimea in 1503-1504 during his trip to Muscovy where he had been invited by the grand duke Ioann III in order to built a temple in the Kremlin. The architect got to the Crimean capital due to an accident.

On the way from Venice to Moscow, in the lands of the Moldovan Princedom, the Muscovian envoys, which accompanied da Montagnana and a number of other Italian artists, was arrested by the Moldovan prince Stefan cel Mare because of a diplomatic conflict between Muscovy and Moldova. 

Having learned about it, Ioann III asked the Crimean khan Meñli I Giray to liberate the envoys and artists and to help them to reach the border of Muscovy. Meñli I Giray managed to persuade Stefan cel Mare to let the captives to proceed their way. Then Alvise Lamberti da Montagnana came to Crimea and lived here for a year creating a marvellous portal for the khan who liberated him. After that the ambassadors and artists left to Muscovy under guard of Crimean troops. Finally Alvise reached Moscow successfully, carrying a letter from Meñli I Giray to Ioann III: the khan responded with a great praise about professional skills of the architect and asked the grand duke to award the excellent work of Alvise.

Besides ornamental motifs of the Renaissance (leaves, flowers, coins, strings of pearls, etc.) the portal bears two inscriptions in the Arabic language. The texts of the inscriptions are the next:

"The owner of this Palace and the ruler of this land, the greatest and noblest sovereign, Meñli Giray khan, a son of Hacı Giray khan, let God has mercy upon him and his parents in both worlds". 


"This majestic threshold and this elevated door were constructed under the order of the sovereign of two continents and the haqan of two seas*, sovereign, a son of a sovereign, Meñli Giray khan, a son of the sovereign Hacı Giray khan. 909 (1503) ".


* Having defeated the Grand Horde in 1502, Meñli I Giray claimed to be the successor of the Golden Horde khans and, therefore, the sovereign of all territories which belonged to the former Empire. For this reason he mentioned in this inscription “two continents” (Europe and Asia) and two seas (Black and Caspian) - lands that previously were subjected to the haqans (khans) of the Golden Horde.

The center of the upper inscription is adorned with the tamğa - the symbol of the Giray dynasty. This sign was also widely represented on Crimean coins and official seals.

A fragment of stone-carvings on the Portal

As the date provided by the inscription shows, the Demir Qapı Portal is about thirty years older than the Palace itself. It is possible to suppose that this construction, consisting of carved limestone blocks, was moved to the Palace from some other place, most probably from the palace called Devlet Saray (which was the initial residence of the Crimean khans until Bakhchisaray was founded). Obviously, after the new Palace in Bakhchisaray had been constructed the portal was disassembled and transferred from Devlet Saray to that place where it stands nowadays.

Texts © Oleksa Haiworonski, 2004