The Cathedral of Vilnius (Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika) is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lithuania and the heart of Catholic spiritual life in Lithuania.
It is believed that in pre-Christian times, the Baltic pagan god Perkūnas was worshiped at the site of the cathedral. It has also been postulated that the Lithuanian King Mindaugas ordered the construction of the original cathedral in 1251 after his conversion to Christianity and appointment of a bishop to Lithuania. Remains of the archaic quadratic church with three naves and massive buttresses have been discovered underneath the current structure in the late 20th century. After Mindaugas's death in 1263, the first cathedral again became a place of pagan worship.
In 1387, the year in which Lithuania was officially converted to Christianity, construction began on a second Gothic Cathedral with five chapels. It was however burnt down in 1419. During preparations for his 1429 coronation as King of Lithuania, Vytautas built a significantly larger Gothic Cathedral in its place. Although the coronation never took place, the walls and pillars of this third Cathedral have survived to this day. The third Cathedral had three naves and four circular towers at its corners, and Flemish traveler Guillebert de Lannoy noticed its similarity to Frauenburg Cathedral. In 1522, the Cathedral was renovated, and a bell tower was built on top of theLower Castle defensive tower. After another fire in 1530, it was rebuilt again and between 1534 - 1557 more chapels and the crypts were added. The Cathedral acquired architectural features associated with the Renaissance.
After yet another fire in 1610, the Cathedral was rebuilt again, and the two front towers were added. The Cathedral was damaged again in 1655 when Vilnius fell to Russian troops in the Russo-Polish War of 1654–1667. It was renovated and redecorated several more times. The Baroque style Saint Casimir chapel was built between 1623 - 1636.
In 1769 the southern tower, built during the reconstruction of 1666 collapsed, destroying the vaults of the neighbouring chapel and killing 6 people. After the damage, Bishop of Vilnius Ignacy Jakub Massalski ordered the reconstruction of the Cathedral. The works started in 1779 and were completed in 1783, and the interior was completed in 1801.
Between 1786 and 1792 three sculptures by Kazimierz Jelski were placed on roof of the Cathedral - Saint Casimir on the south side,Saint Stanislaus on the north, and Saint Helena in the centre. These sculptures were removed in 1950 and restored in 1997.
Inside crypts and catacombs of the Cathedral are buried many famous people from Lithuanian and Polish history including Vytautas (1430), his wife Anna (1418), his brother Sigismund (Žygimantas) (1440), his cousin Švitrigaila (1452), Saint Casimir (1484), Alexander Jagiellon (1506), and two wives of Sigismund II Augustus: Elisabeth of Habsburg (1545) and Barbara Radziwiłł (1551). The heart of the Polish-Lithuanian king Władysław IV Vasa was buried there upon his death, although the rest of his body is buried at the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków.
Inside, there are more than forty works of art dating from the 16th through 19th centuries, including frescoes and paintings of various sizes. During the restoration of the Cathedral, the altars of a presumed pagan temple and the original floor, laid during the reign of KingMindaugas, were uncovered. In addition, the remains of the cathedral built in 1387 were also located. A fresco dating from the end of the 14th century, the oldest known fresco in Lithuania, was found on the wall of one of the cathedral's underground chapels.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.