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Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes. From the Mediterranean to the Black Sea

Date de soumission : 16/09/2010
Critères: (ii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to Unesco
État, province ou région :
Ukraine, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
Coordonnées N44 50 33 E34 57 24
Ref.: 5575

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This selection of "Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes. From the Mediterranean to the Black Sea" includes some of the most significant examples, chosen from a dense network of maritime and mercantile settlements distributed around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In their physical form and variety, these settlements share recognisable urban and architectural features, and represent a strongly individualised system of ancient seaborne trading ports, situated in areas where the Genoese influence is still clearly legible.

Genoa's several hundred medieval harbours in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Atlantic, and northern Europe are evidence of its presence in all those areas between the 11 th and 15th centuries. As the outward expression of the strategic activity in which it was engaged during that period, the particular characteristics of these settlements were a product of the uniquely Italian system of comuni (sovereign city-states). The settlements were based on locally modified versions of Genoa's domestic economic model, which was essentially private or public/private (and was only rarely wholly public). From place to place, to a greater or lesser extent, the Genoese allowed these settlements to respond to local conditions. But whilst they were all significantly different, they were also the interdependent parts of a coherent network, designed to ensure maximum mobility and operational flexibility for the ruling class of Genoese and Ligurian families, who had organised themselves into groups of great importance, and had branches all over the world.

The city of Genoa had grown up in a particular way for a number of reasons, partly intrinsic due to its geographical position, and partly because of the political circumstances of the time. Genoa enjoyed a favourable geographic location and setting, well served by roads but with no agricultural hinterland on which to rely. It was positioned on an axis that connected to Rome, was close to Milan and the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, and sat midway between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It also benefited from having a non-monolithic, fragmented political system; her comune system of city government was the key factor for her international success.

Thanks to the sea, trade, and then, increasingly, the power of capital and also the technological capabilities of the famous Genoese admirals, who were sought-after by all the medieval navies; and thanks to the constant need to find new overseas areas of activity, the region of Liguria, which only had a small population, found itself obliged to make all its resources available to others as well as to itself, and therefore had to limit to the essential the costs of any new overseas urban settlements. On that basis, by the 1ih century Genoa had established a presence on the northern Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula (at Santiago de Compostela), on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, and the whole of the western Mediterranean basin. At the same time, Genoese mercantile activity and its intensive participation in the First Crusade (1097-1109) also enabled it to create urban settlements to the East, which took a different form from place to place. It is important to note that in creating its free network of terrestrial and maritime communications, similar operations were also undertaken in the areas immediately bordering the city (which were much more extensive than present-day Liguria), involving both Piedmont and the Po valley, the two coastal areas to east and west, and the nearby islands including Corsica, which as soon as it was taken was integrated into metropolitan Genoa.

These operations were of great magnitude, and required heavy investment, so in general the Genoese, in view of their limited resources, preferred to follow a policy based on making treaties. Warfare, the construction of urban settlements and fortified structures, or upgrading previous settlements, were only undertaken when strictly necessary, and direct rule was only resorted to in outstandingly important cases of particular strategic significance, where there was a need to establish control over trade routes, market outlets, or to preserve a Genoese monopoly. In all other cases the Genoese preferred to negotiate the use of harbours and/or urban areas which they then organised and regulated differently from place to place, depending on the local powers that retained control. In each of the overseas outposts established by the Genoese at different times, in the Islamic and Byzantine areas, the Black Sea, Corsica, Portugal, Castile, Flanders, and England, each situation was therefore different.

This is all still clearly legible in the system of strategically-positioned settlements that the Genoese gradually built up, of which some examples are described below. In the coastal area immediately to the east of the city, these settlements varied from the creation of a "colony" at Portovenere, to the construction of an urbanised quarter with a castle, at Chiavari. They took great care to build and maintain a system of fortifications to the immediate west as well, in which Ventimiglia and Noli played important roles, and Monaco in particular was strongly defended. Important roles were also played, during this period, by the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, where Genoa engaged in a series of private and public initiatives: Bonifacio, Calvi and other places in Corsica became integral parts of the Genoese system; in Sardinia, a private Genoese presence was maintained at Castelsardo. Further field in Seville there is still a Genoese Quarter today; an even stronger Genoese presence continued to exist in Andalusia, in the wake of the Castilian conquest in the mid-thirteenth century; present-day Lisbon still has an "Admiral's Quarter", and signs of the Ligurian presence can also still be seen in the Maghreb, at Tunis, and in Morocco.

As a result of having taken part in the Crusade, the Ligurians established a virtual monopoly in the whole Syro-Palestinian area of the eastern Mediterranean, where the Embriaci dynasty created their own private settlement at Gibellet (Byblos/Jbeil). Other Genoese urban quarters existed in Antioch, Laodicea, Tyre, and Acre as well as in Cyprus, after the island was conquered by Richard the Lionheart. At the same time, there was a Genoese connection with Byzantium, where private monopolies were operated by the Zaccaria family at Focea (for alum) and Chios (for mastic gum). From an early stage the Genoese also occupied a very important urban quarter in Constantinople, at Pera and on the hill of Galata. After 1261 and the Treaty of Ninfeo, they established another monopoly across the whole of the Black Sea, with its stronghold in the Crimea at settlements like Cembalo (Balaklava), Caffa (Feodosia) and Sudak (Soldaia). Here, a more sophisticated and extensive urban system was built, similar to those in other areas controlled by Genoa, i.e., based on the municipal system in Genoa itself. Subsequent history has demonstrated that thanks to good relationships between the Genoese and the Turks, the Crimea proved to be of such strategic importance that it continued to be defended even after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, right up until 1475.

As has been said, all these settlements were profoundly different, but their planning was always based on the same three subdivisions as those of Genoa herself: castrum, civitas, and burgus. The most strongly defended commercial core was the castrum. Its enclosed, walled urban fabric showed affinities with the Islamic fonduk, and consisted of a gridded system of urban blocks; this arrangement was then followed in all subsequent extensions of the city, of which the first was the civitas, a second enclosed perimeter that included the buildings occupied by the Genoese urban aristocracy. Beyond the civitas, and always or almost always outside the walls, was the urban accretion known as the burgus or borgo ("town"): a heterogeneous urban quarter which in more complex examples could consist of several borghi. In general, the Genoese did not live in the borgo.

But it must be underlined that these three components were not built or developed to the same extent in every settlement; their structure differed according to the local setting, the pre-existing built artefacts, and the strategic importance of each particular locality.

Selection of the sites. The candidate sites, which were selected from about 100 mediaeval seaports in the Genoese network, were narrowed down to twenty of the most important examples. The selection was based on a number of methodological considerations, which took account of the cultural context of reference, the extent to which a settlement embodied the values of the Genoese network as a whole, and its attributes of authenticity and integrity. Particular attention was also paid to its visible historic, cultural and scenographic remains, in respect of the three historical/settlement matrices of Genoese tradition: the castrum, civitas, and burgus just mentioned.

Other sites that could also be considered significant elements of the system have not been brought forward, because either their attributes· of integrity, their recognisability, or their degree of protection does not, for the moment, suggest that they should be included. This leaves open the future possibility of extending the scope of the network by stages, to include such sites which do not currently appear to meet all the prescribed conditions for inscription on the list.


The fortification complex 29.5 ha in area is situated on the north and south-west slope of Fortress Mount (160 m) and south-east slope of Polvani-Oba Mount (106 m) that are located on the sea coast and close the mouth of Sudak Valley from the west. The massif consists of marble-like limestones of coral origin and underclay. The north and the south slopes are separated by rocky ridges. From the north, their slopes are rather gently sloping. From the south (from the sea-side), the limestone cliffs stretch deeply into the sea. On the seashore in amphitheatre between them, there was a port suburb.

According to the latest research, the remains of early, mainly fortification structures that are

located in the port part of the Sudak Fortress on the north slope of Fortress Mount date back to the 3d 4th c. They testify to the existence here of a fortified port station of the times of the Bosporan Kingdom. From the second half of the ih century, Sudak (Sugdeia) represented a fortress under the reign of Byzantine that protected an important port station, anchorage and a place of repair and wintering of ships. At the beginning of the 8th century, the city acquired the status of episcopal centre,

i.e. in medieval Christian conception, it became a city. In the 8th -12th centuries, Sudak became one of the most famous centers of international trade in the region. From the middle of the 13 th century,

Sugdeia as well as the whole Crimea fell under power of Mongol Empire. The establishment of Mongolian Kingdom, contributed to the rapid development of trade ties of the Mediterranean countries with Central Asia and Far East namely through the ports of the Crimea and Black Sea regiOn.

From the end ofthe 13th century, Sudak became an occasional scene ofmilitary confrontation between Genoa and Venice, but it was under complete control of the Golden Horde. In 1365, the Genoese gained a victory and had control over the city until 1475. The major part of fortification structures of the Sudak Fortress that has been well preserved till nowadays was restored in the time of "Great Commune of Genoa". Almost a score of official lapidary inscriptions dated from 1371 till 1469 testify to it. Some of them have been preserved in-situ on the towers of the Sudak Fortress.

The fortification structures of the Genoese time almost reproduced the main schema of the city protection of Byzantine period, which completely corresponded to characteristics of relief. But the new masters of the city gave it the structural features, which were peculiar to them at home and typical for the majority of Genoese strengthened port settlements of Mediterranean. Structurally, it is possible to distinguish Castrum -the castle -citadel, protected by stone walls with three towers along the ridge of Fortress Mount with the complex of Consular Castle on the east and donjon -the Watchtower on the summit of the mountain, which is known from the written sources as "Castrum Santa Elia"; Civis -the city on the north slope of Fortress Mount, protected by stone walls with 14 towers and a rampart in front of them, which is known from the written sources as "Castrum Santa Croche"; Burgus -a port suburb, protected from land by a stone wall with tower, which is connected with the city by a curtain wall.

The restricted area of the port made the inhabitants to find the place for settlement behind its walls north-ward, where external suburb arose -Antiburgus. Since ancient times on the territory of the city, the buildings of two cisterns (1374) and the temple of Catholic Monastery, reconstructed from the mosque (1373) have been preserved. During archaeological research, the foundations of Catholic Cathedral of Blessed Virgin (between 1365 and 1384) and a large "house with fireplace" near the only city gate, perhaps the building of city loggia (logia comunalis) were discovered. As it was clarified during research, a civil residential development in Genoese times didn't typologically differ from the prior period. It also hasn't undergone any significant changes in Ottoman period. The majority of residential constructions that arose in the 12th- 13th century without significant changes, particularly alterations, existed until the decay of the city in the first half of the 17th century.

At the time of Ottoman rule (1475-1771), Sudak hasn't lost its significance as an administrative centre of important agricultural region. Only at the beginning of the 17th century, the decay of the city began and in those times, when the Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire (1783), it represented a small but picturesque settlement near the ruins of the former Genoese Fortress.

The fortification system of the Genoese city has survived in all its details and combines organically with a scenic natural landscape that resembles maritime landscapes of the northwest Mediterranean familiar to the Ligurians.

The Sudak Fortress acquired a museum status as early as in 1868. At that time it was subordinated to the Imperial Odessa Society of History and Antiquities. Since 1959, the Sudak Fortress Museum has become a part of the properties of the National Conservation Area "St. Sophia of Kyiv". The territory within the fortress walls represents the entire, undeveloped and unique archaeological monument, on which the properties of medieval urban fabric, residential, public and religious structures are examined.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

Examined in their complexity over the long term, the system of trading posts and fortifications on Genoese trade routes can be seen as an important prelude to the modern era. In its various forms of settlement, this system provides an exceptional body of evidence about Genoa's particular approach to economic expansion and her relationships with the world. This anticipated similar approaches adopted by others in later periods.

The Genoese settlements around the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are of astonishingly high importance in their urban planning, architecture and landscape; in each place, the environmental and strategic context was shrewdly exploited to harmonise it with pre-existing settlements and architecture. This very well reflects Genoa's expansionistic-mercantile approach as it developed between the 11th and 15th centuries; essentially a private or public/private system, it was locally adapted to create very different local arrangements, which however were interdependent. This inaugurated an essentially very modern type of economy, global in scope and based on a commercial network in ways that ensured maximum mobility and operational flexibility for the Genoese and Ligurian ruling class; this approach enabled it to survive even after the area had passed under Turkish influence.

Criterion (ii): The trading posts and fortifications on Genoese trade routes stand as an exceptional body of evidence testifying to the considerable exchanges between civilisations promoted by the Genoese in the Middle Ages and the modern age, in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and which influenced the structure and development of a remarkable number of maritime-seaport urban settlements, which are noteworthy in terms of the contexts in which they were built, the development of trading relationships, the techniques ofcomrnerce, maritime and naval technology, and architecture and the arts.

Criterion (iv): Taken as a whole or individually, the settlements and the overall system are outstanding examples of historical-maritime urban settlement, showing how coastal land and preexisting settlements were used to create examples of urban planning of high landscape value. They are the physical expression of an urban and sea-going culture that later became the strongest economic, social and environmental matrix for subsequent developments in Mediterranean and the Black Sea and as far as the Atlantic.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

The assessment of integrity and authenticity ofthe Sudak Fortress is the following:

The Sudak Fortress is an integral architectural complex, which still has necessary urban planning and natural elements to express the outstanding universal value of this monument of defensive architecture. The original perimeter of the walls with towers and other fortifications has a large extension. The key elements of fortification, namely the Citadel with the Consular Castle and the biggest towers of the fortress preserve a considerable integrity and authenticity. The range of walled fortifications of the Genoese period preserves unaltered form and structure. During restoration and renovation of the fortress as an integral defensive complex, the building traditions concerning the technique and materials were taken into account, which were consistent with the period of its construction. The massif of Fortress Mount, with which the fortress is directly associated, is also completely integral and well-preserved. This architectural and landscape complex dominates the sea and Sudak valley.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

In the period in which Genoa was developing and consolidating its expanded network of trading posts and fondaci (11th-15th centuries) around the Mediterranean, the two other territorial and political entities that can most directly be compared with it are Venice and the Arab World.

The Venetian empire's period of maximum splendour, between the 12th century and the end of the 16th century, was marked by a significant expansion of the territorial possessions she had won and which she then defended militarily as fully integrated, active parts of the Venetian state. The "Gulf of Venice" was always taken to include the entire Adriatic, as the essential base for the land and sea power of the Serenissima Repubblica. As urban images, Venice's overseas settlements were therefore built to exactly copy her own urban scenography; with spectacular force and determination, they expressed the same architectural and urban characteristics as Venice herself.

The modernity and efficiency of the Genoese system, inflexible when it came to retaining the economic advantage in its agreements with overseas territories, but pragmatic and malleable in the politics of her territorial agreements, contrasted with the Venetian approach, which almost always gave precedence to military and maritime power over the venal interests of traffic and trade. On the other hand, the Genoese system gave rise to the construction of urban developments which although they differed greatly, are sometimes difficult to tell apart, as in the case of the urban quarters built in many different places (Acre, Seville, PeralGalata etc.). But in only in a few instances -as in Corsica and around the Black Sea -it is possible to observe a precise, visible Genoese intention to organise and control.

As for the Arab world, by the 7th century it had already established a decisive presence along the warfaring sea routes of the Mediterranean, and this presence remained virtually unchallenged by any enemy right up until the end of the 10th century. The Islamic attitude to territorial conquest seems to have relied on the same military principles that were later espoused by Venice. Clear testimony of this Islamic approach to seafaring and also, in part, to trade, can be seen from the Middle Ages right up to modem times in the Islamised parts of Europe: in the long-lasting presence Islamic presence in Iberia, from the earliest possessions and throughout the succession of later governments; in the more ephemeral Sicilian emirates and on the Italian mainland, and in the extensive Islamic areas of Mediterranean Africa, the Middle East, and in Eastern Europe, including the 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. The Islamic occupation of the Iberian Peninsula led to the construction of the A1cazars: areas of high ground, dominated by a fortress, and with an urban fabric tightly concentrated within a walled perimeter, which descended from the fortified hilltop to enclose the harbour as well. This way of organising an urban fabric within walls was of absolutely original type; it consisted of a series of concentric arrangements that formed a "labyrinth" similar to the enclosed building types of the souk and the fonduk.

Whereas in Genoa's overseas settlements the urban landscape was characterised by a profusion of porticoes and arcades that expressed openness and a predisposition to trade, in the Islamic urban landscape these areas were restricted to the closed market or "caravanserai" areas. But the privacy and protection afforded by the Arab souk were appreciated by the Genoese, who imitated them when they came to build their ownfondaci in their overseas settlements, but only as reserved inner areas of the buildings, which continued to be built overlooking the ubiquitous wide, open, arcaded streets.

It may have been the early collaboration between the Genoese and Portuguese that accentuated the mercantile character of Portuguese expansionism. Thanks to the strongly businessdirected intentions of the Portuguese, in fact, Portuguese expansionism aimed at creating a "grid" of ports and settlements under their control, which they used to establish an extensive sea traffic network, and to which they later added more extensive territories, as they conquered them.

In the centuries that followed, after the known world had opened up to much broader horizons, the Dutch -who created the Dutch East India Company -initially built a strategic system of fortified commercial bases (partly doubling up with those of the Portuguese), and later extended it to bring it under their own direct territorial control. The English, for their part, also created an East India Company, but based it on a wider range of systems: permanent settlements directly controlled, protectorates, and semi-autonomous local governments. It grew to become the largest empire of all time (in terms of size, only the Mongol Empire could be compared with it).