Currently, about 60 epigraphic monuments are described on the walls of the Bendery fortress in the form of graffito, bas-reliefs, chronograms made both from local building stone-limestone, and separately made, and then mounted in the walls of the fortress plates with bas-reliefs made of granite or marble. These epigraphic monuments contain the most valuable information for researchers, as well as provide ample opportunities for identifying the construction periodization of this fortification complex. he most famous of them is the so-called tarikh of Suleiman – it is a marble slab with a six-line inscription in Farsi, previously placed on the wall of the Gate Tower in the citadel.
In addition, a significant amount of graffito is located on the walls of the outer bypass moat of the fortress. Three bas-reliefs and a fragment of one chronogram are recorded on the southern flank of demi-bastion № 2 (near the main gate of the fortress). There is a bas-relief made on a limestone slab in the upper corner; its size is 50 x 40 cm, it depicts a wall free pendulum clock, its hands point exactly to “8 o’clock”, the clock-face consists of Arabic numerals. The pendulum is depicted in the form of a rosetta, and there are 4 plumbs on the sides of it. a monogram in the form of two Latin letters “BK” is located in the lower left corner. There are several Arabic numerals, which alternate with elements of stylized floral ornament above the clock, in the upper field of the bas-relief. Today this bas-relief bears traces of destruction, especially in the upper and lateral parts along the edge. However, in 1819, Russian officers redrew almost all the epigraphic monuments of the fortress. These drawings have survived to this day, and therefore, the damaged places of the bas-relief were completely recreated.
All researchers of the fortress came to the unequivocal conclusion that the wall clock, which appeared on the bastion after the reconstruction of the fortress by the French engineer Francois Kauffer in 1793-95, contains a cryptogram in which the carver encrypted three messages. The first message contains the top line with the number 1028 (١٠٢٨ ), the pattern between the numbers in the form of an anchor, while it is just a stylized image and does not carry any information. The second message encoded in the clock, the big hand of which shows the figure 12 (١٢), and a small - figure 8 (٨). The third message is in Latin letters “BK”.
An attempt to decrypt these messages always led to different results. The Odessa historian A. Krasnozhon most accurately deciphered these messages with the help of the director of the House of Friendship “Ukraine-Iran”, Dr. Pakhlevan-zade.
There is indeed a year – 1028 Hegira or 1619 according to the Christian era in the upper part of the bas-relief, and not 1208 or 1793 – as it was supposed by other scientists.
Why did the engineer indicate this date above the clock, and not the date of the beginning of the moat reconstruction? The fact is that in 1619, Turkey began preparations for a war with Poland, which included the capture of the entire Black Sea coast, as well as the Ottoman fortresses along the Dniester, including Bendery. It is from this year that the outer defensive front of the fortress begins to be laid in the form of an EARTHEN moat with bastions that have survived to our time. The new earthen moat covered the existing suburbs of the fortress, thus the territory of the fortress increased a great deal to 67 hectares. t is this moat, its length and the presence of bastions in the moat that were described by the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi in 1657. All these fortifications stood without stone finishing until 1705, it was then until 1707 that the moat and bastions became stone. Kauffer knew about this and in the clock he indicated the date of laying the moat, which he did not even reconstruct, but repaired it after the undermining of its south-western part by Russian troops in 1790.
The monogram “BK” can mean Turkish words written as an abbreviation in Latin transliteration: “Bender Kalesi” – it is Bendery fortress.
The most difficult to decipher was the message in the form of a clock hand on the clock-face, showing 8 o’clock. This message was deciphered only when, drawing up a plan of the fortress and conducting measurement work, it was possible to establish that the layout of the object was carried out in the form of the pentagon.
When European engineers, led by Kauffer, began to reconstruct the fortress, they immediately found that the layout of the fortress in this form resembles the pentagon, inscribed in a clear circle, and the number of points of the radius on the circle and the location of all the outer bastions of the fortress, resembles a clock-face. That is, the image of the pendulum clock on bastion №2 carries the idea of French engineers about the layout of the fortress. The clock carries the idea of splitting the fortress ensemble, where the two hands are the base radii, and all the bastions in the outer perimeter mean numbers.
As it was established during the measurement of the fortress, the central point of the outer bastion front's laying is associated with the south-western corner tower of the citadel. It is the only tower that is equidistant from all the corner points of the ditch's counterscarp. It is from the walls of this tower that a direct visual overview of almost all the bastions opens. It was this and the left-bank fortifications of the fortress that served as reference points for the laying of the outer front in 1619, i.e. in the year that is encrypted in the upper part of the pendulum clock. Thus, the number 12 on the clock-face corresponds to bastion №8, and the number 8, to bastion №4. In this case, the hands of the clock do not show the hour or calendar time, but the angle between the directions to the north and bastion №4 it is 2400.
This means only such interesting fact that the European engineer, performing a topographical survey of the fortress, made angular measurements of the positions of the bastions from the specified corner tower of the citadel, as the builder of the outer bastion moat did in 1619. In this case, the clock hand has a notional orientation to the North, and the pendulum of the clock indicates the direction to the South, to Mecca. Therefore, it is no accident that the end of the pendulum is made in the form of a rosette with seven petals, which symbolizes the seven names of Allah in Islam.
In addition to strengthening the outer moat of the fortress, engineer Kauffer also built a wall along the eastern line of the fortress (now the Dniester-Auto plant), laid the Grigorievsky Gate (on Russian military maps of 1819 – Dniester), built the northern and southern estuarial bastions, as well as the most monumental structure in the Upper Fortress – crownwork – a triangular stone structure in the eastern part in front of the citadel. The construction of the crownwork expanded the gun platform to protect the approaches to the fortress from the Dniester, and also made it difficult for attackers to penetrate from the Lower Fortress to the Upper one.
1 . Bas-relief in the form of a clock. 3D model made by G. Vilkov.
2 a) Modern drawing of the clock b) Drawing of the clock in 1819
3.Picture 45. Construction periods of the Bendery fortification complex.
Location of the epigraphic monument with the number of the drawing.
Construction periods of the Bendery fortress by A. Krasnozhon, also indicating the placement of stone bas-reliefs (lapidary, epigraphic monuments) on the walls of the fortress. Clock number is 41.3-6
4. The layout sketch of the fortress bastion front (line)
5. Placing the clock on the bastion. Photo was made in December, 2020.