Birnie Kirk was built c. 1140 and became the first cathedral of the Bishop of Moray. It remained the cathedral church until 1184 when Bishop Simon de Tosny died. His successor Richard de Lincoln moved the seat to the church of Kinnedar. The church is one of the oldest in Scotland to have been in continuous use.
The nave was shortened by a few feet in 1734 but the remainder is the original 12th-century structure. The building is constructed of finely cut ashlar blocks. It is simply designed with a nave and a smaller chancel. The nave and chancel are partitioned by a striking Romanesque arch. A baptismal font, contemporary with the building, sits in the corner of the nave.
In the grounds stands a Class I Pictish symbol stone, attesting to the area's long history. The circular nature of the grave yard suggests that the church overlies an earlier, Dark Age site.
There is a legend that in November 1704 Sir Robert Gordon, known as the 'Wizard of Gordonstoun', was pursued by the Devil as he rode towards Birnie Kirk. In the chase, Sir Robert was thrown over the churchyard wall, breaking his neck. Since he died on consecrated ground, the Devil could not claim his soul.References:
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.