In the Medieval Period, Vamlingbo was the largest parish in the south of Gotland. A stone church was built here at a very early date. Remains of the original church can still be seen by way of sculptures that have been incorporated in the south wall of the nave of the new church. The baptismal font is also from the original church.
The present church was built of sandstone in the 13th century. The steeple was struck by lightning in 1817. The top of the tower collapsed, and was replaced by a lower, simpler one. Nine crossed vaults can be seen in the nave, borne up by four sturdy supports.
Many of the murals are of the same age as the church. There is a huge fresco on the north side of the nave interior – it depicts the angel Michael weighing the Emperor Henry’s soul. There are also several tombstones and commemorative paintings in memory of people buried in the church. The reredos date from the 13th century, and the pulpit from 17th century.
The church has also been renovated several times during the 20th century. South of the church is what might be Gotland’s most magniﬁcent parsonage. From the road, you can see the impressive driveway leading to the main house, with two long wings and two pairs of gateposts.
One wing is a barn and the other a cowhouse. The priest’s dwelling-house and two smaller wings, from the late 18th century, are in the house garden. The house is two-storeyed, and has retained its outer appearance. The beautiful entrance has been furnished with striking details in sandstone. The wings originally functioned as a brewhouse, baking oven, meat store and farm-hand’s quarters. The parsonage now houses the Museum Lars Jonsson.
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.