A Publication in the Turkish Periodical Regarding the Castle of Hamshen Princes: “The Gateway to Fırtına Valley”
An article devoted to the history of the Zil castle was published in the Turkish newspaper Huriyet, but there is no information that the fortress was built by Armenian princes during the existence of the autonomous principality of Hamshen. Below is the article translated into English.
Fırtına valley is one of those places where the nature has preserved the beauty. Not only the nature of this valley, but also its history is remarkable, and the most notable building here is Zil castle…
Situated twenty km far from Çamlıhemşin region (historical Hamshen, located in Rize province, Turkey), between Şenköy, Palovit valley and Mejmun village, one hundred meteres above the river, Zil castle reminds of a palace, which is one of the most notable cultural and historical monuments preserved.
The steep cliffs on which was built the castle, is 750 meters above sea level. They say, there was a secret tunnel between the castle and the canyon, which closed over time.It is not coincidental, that this castle was built in Fırtına valley, one of the most important points on the Silk Road connecting Trabzon with Tabriz. It can be assumed that this castle was constructed not for military purpose, but for the following reason: the commodities that were brought to Iran were stored here and then delivered to local residents. So in this period women's colorful headscarves were called "Persian shars”. In some regions they were called “shy”. These traditional headscarves were the reflection of intensive trade.
No Detailed Archeological Excavations Have Been Conducted
Any detailed archeological excavations around this castle haven’t been conducted. There are only several finds. Based on ancient ruins, the specialists comment on its structural peculiarities: “The castle is comprised of external fences, internal fences and a citadel. You can reach the door of the external fence only through the north-western narrow path. The stones of the northern doors are ruined. Through one of the balconies you can enter the citadel which has three important buildings: the guard room, the chapel and the main tower. From the tracks and holes on the walls, it is clear that the castle was a four-storey building. There are arched windows on the eastern side of the walls․ It is assumed that water from the holes of the stretching pipes inside the walls was flowing into the reservoirs. There is no exact data exactly when the castle was built: it dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries (As Anthony Brian mentions, the castle was built by Hamshen prince Araqel). There is no data both about the primeval and the medieval history of the region (the Turkish periodical evidently avoids from mentioning the Byzantine and Armenian history of the region).
Fortresses and castles, such as Varosh, Zil, Jihan, and Pazar Kız, provided the security of those regions as well as important medieval transit routes to Baiburt (Baberd). The castle was still used by the Ottomans after the conquest of the region. Two cannons found in the castle are currently kept in Trabzon museum”.
Admiring the Valley
Although some sources point out that, there was a secret tunnel connecting the castle with the river, but so far, it has not been disclosed.
Since the castle was fully abandoned under the Ottoman rule, the roof was most likely to be destroyed, and it was completely warped, like the Sumela monastery, and the castle transformed into a forest reminding a ghost. It will not be a mistake if we say that it was more attractive so. Five-six years ago, when the road to Chat valley was being rebuilt, this castle also was restored somehow. With walls made of clay, this castle has nearly half a million visitors annually. Meanwhile, if it had been restored, and if boards were put with more detailed information about the castle, the number of visitors would be more. Nevertheless, this castle is one of the most memorable buildings in the area, and it must definitely be visited. A special pleasure is to admire the castle from the valley.
One More Castle...
The castle is known as “Zil”, but its real name is Kale-i Zir. 25 km far from this castle is situated another one – Kale-i Bala. In some written sources this castle is mentioned as Varosh castle. The main plan of this castle is square, its eastern, southern and northern parts are rocky. Its western part is located on a hilly territory. The entrance of Kale-i Bala is in north-west. It’s apparent that this castle is related with Zil castle, as its location is also important. This castle has also been “restored” taking into account the interest of visitors. These two castles are worth to be visited, because they are in a very interesting place and the scene from them is wonderful".
Translated from Turkish.