Staraya Ladoga Fortress

Staraja Ladoga, Russia

The Staraya Ladoga village used to be a prosperous trading outpost in the 8th and 9th centuries. A multi-ethnic settlement, it was dominated by Scandinavians who were called by the name of Rus and for that reason is sometimes called the first capital of Russia. The village was referred in 862 for the first time in ancient annals concerning calling of three Varangian Rurick brothers as crisis managers for the Russia Land, in connection with extensiveness of its territory and absence of any order. Those annals informed that elder brother, who has wooden settlement here and became the ruler of Russian Lands.

The site for the building the fortress is very convenient indeed. There was the main trade waterway from Varangians to Greeks by the river of Volkhov and so there were great possibilities to make big profit of that. The sea of Ladoga is only 15 km away. This place was the capital of Russia for a short time, but soon Rurick moved the capital to Novgorod by political reasons.

In 1114 the first stone fortress in Russia was erected by the Novgorod posadnik Pavel and Ladoga became a large trading city. In 1164 a Swedish army with 55 vessels appeared under the walls of the fortress. They undertook fierce storm but were defeated and forced to escape. In Ladoga Lake they were intercepted by the Novgorod militia and were beaten hard in addition. In 1313 Swedes seized and burned the Ladoga fortress at last, but could not stay here for very long and were forced to escape again. In 1338 the fortress was stormed unsuccessfully by Swedes again. In the 15th century the fortress was totally reconstructed in connection with quick fire-arms developments.

In Time of Troubles (1610) Swedes again grasped the fortress for 6 years. In 1701 there was the last unsuccessful storm of Ladoga by the Swedish army. In 1704 the whole local administration and trading were moved to the small town Novaya Ladoga near the Ladoga Lake under Peter's I order. This was the beginning of fading the ancient city. With the construction of railway in 1860 the trading transportations over the river of Volkhov were in practice stopped. Nowadays Staraya Ladoga is the little and fading village.

Today curtain walls, defensive towers and two of six churches still remain. There are two museums in the fortress with a small entrance fee.

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The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

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