St. John's Lutherans Church is one of the oldest medieval architectural monuments in Latvia and the largest medieval basilica outside Riga. The Church was built in 13th century under the Livonian Order by the second Riga Archbishop Johann von Luves. Cesis became one of the most important German centres from 1237 to 1561.
In the 16th century St. John's Church survived a few changes. First at the beginning it was devastated and became one of the Northern Reformation Centres and one of the first Reformation Churches in Latvia. At the end of the century Cesis was ruled by Polish authority and the name of the Church was changed into Catholic bishop Inflantijas Cathedral. After Sweden-Russian war Cesis was annexed by Russia and St. John's Church became Russian property until 1919 year. WWI as well as WWII destroyed a big part of the Church. After WWI the Church lost its 56 stunning stained glass windows, a part tile roof, an organ space was damaged. During a siege in WWII the city was strongly bombed up. The southern part of side area, roof arch and organ were destroyed.
Although St. John's Church suffered the North War, eight fires, crusades of German and Soviet Union troops, it managed to rebuild the roof, walls, arches and even stained glass windows. Today the glorious St. John's Lutheran Church is 65 m long, 32 meters wide and has a massive 65 m high bell tower of neo gothic style with four small towers on the corners and a 15 m high triangular gothic spire. The three-sphere basilica centre altar is a public monument as this late gothic style masterpiece is cut from oak. The apse and rectangular halls are trimmed with semi-circle arches interlinking in the centre. Large stained glass windows, ancient metal wares, gravestones of Livonian Masters of the Order and organ music is creating mysterious and exciting atmosphere.
Besides the everyday three-time worships the Church is also organizing local organ concerts and world famous International Organ Festivals. St. John's Church is actively cooperating with city council, other interfaith congregations, “Sister” Church in Sweden and German and associates with the Riga Old Sun Gertrude and Slokas congregations. The Church is protecting historical and art monuments that are inscribed into National importance list.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.