Ukraine: Fountain of Tears Weeps Through the Ages

Grief is the price paid for love. Marking a loss can take years especially when the loss is not only the inevitability of death but an unrequited love. In the case of the Crimean Khan that ruled the region between 1758 and 1764, a Fountain of Tears marks the passage of his ancient journey through the common experience of grief in the Crimean city of Bakhchysaray.

According to legend, the last Crimean Khan, Giri, fell in love with a beautiful Polish woman who had been captured and brought to his harem. Perhaps due to the anguish of her imprisonment or maybe as a result of a murderous plot to poison her, the Khan’s paramour died unexpectedly. When the fearless ruler and warrior became paralyzed by grief, his court ordered a Persian master craftsman to construct a fountain to mark the Khan’s distress.

Legend guides the meaning of the fountain. The marble flower, symbolizing the Khan’s eye, fills the top cup of the fountain, the ruler’s heart, with grief and sorrow. A pair of smaller cups speaks to time assuaging the pain, a pain that is later revived by the large cup in the middle suggesting memory. The pilgrimage of grief is relieved by eternity, signified by the spiral at the bottom of the fountain. Originally constructed over the young woman’s tomb in a quiet garden, the Fountain of Tears was relocated to its present location in the courtyard of the Khan’s Palace after Catherine the Great ordered the annexation of the Crimean region.

Adorned by a poem by a Muslim poet glorifying the last Khan and an inscription quoting a verse from the Quran, the fountain moved the Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin to write his own interpretation of tragedy. His poem, “To the Fountain of the Palace of the Bakchisarai” is credited in part for ensuring the survival of the palace itself to be enjoyed by travelers today.