Gdov was established as an outpost of the Pskov Republic. It occupied a strategically important position, being close to Lake Peipus, separating Livonia and Rus. Located on an important road to Pskov, Gdov protected it from the north. Its first mention in the chronicles dates back to 1323. Initially, the fortress was a mixture of wooden and earthen fortifications. However, the level of protection was deemed insufficient against the rising threat of the German incursion. Construction of a stone Kremlin, initially with wooden elements, commenced in 1431. The walls were constructed of alternating layers of boulders and Devonian sandstone, reaching 4 m in thickness and 8 m in height. The Kremlin had become fully stone-built by the middle of the 15th century.
The Kremlin had been attacked on numerous occasions by German, Polish, and Swedish forces. In March 1480, Gdov was attacked by forces of the Livonian Order that burned the posad and laid siege to the Kremlin, attempting to infiltrate it in a few places at the same time. Vastly outnumbered, the Gdov forces had to use every means of defence available to them, from artillery to burning tar and boiling water, successfully preventing the Order from reaching its goal.
The Ingrian War began in 1610, marking the onset of a Swedish invasion. By 1613, the Kremlin was besieged again. The Swedish forces managed to capture it, only to lose control of it later that year. In 1614, another attempt was made, with Gustavus II Adolphus, the King of Sweden personally commanding the operation. The Kremlin fell again remaining under Swedish control until 1621 when a peace treaty was signed under which Gdov was returned to Russia.
During the 17th century, the Kremlin was continuously damaged by siege. It sustained major damage to its stonework; signs of explosions have been identified. In 1657, during the course of another Russo–Swedish War, it withstood a siege laid by eight thousand soldiers led by Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. In 1686, the Kremlin was severely damaged by fire. By the end of the century, is started to lose its strategic importance.
In 1706, Gdov was visited by Tsar Peter the Great. He ordered the walls strengthened by covering them with earth. Currently, the stone towers are also covered by earth, and have been ever since the construction of the town's park took place in the 19th century. Later in the 18th century, when the kremlin had totally fallen into disuse, parts of the walls were taken apart. In 1781, the demolition of the kremlin was temporarily halted by order of Catherine the Great.
In February 1944, the Kremlin was razed almost entirely by the retreating forces of Nazi Germans. All the structures within the Kremlin walls, including a cathedral with a 52 m tall bell tower, churches, and hundreds of merchants' houses were destroyed by explosives; only the walls remained.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).