A wooden church was built on the site of the current one in Tingstäde during the early 12th century. The church has later been replaced by first a Romanesque church, of which the portals survive, and later once more rebuilt in Gothic style during the 13th and 14th centuries. Few alterations have been made to the church since.
The church was one of three so-called asylum churches on Gotland during the Middle Ages, a place where suspected criminals could find refuge awaiting trial. The name Tingstäde also translates to 'location of a thing', indicating that the place has ancient judicial traditions.
The church has a 55m high tower, adorned with Gothic galleries on several storeys. Inside, remains of picture stones have been used as building material. The nave is vaulted and the ceiling supported by a single, central column with richly sculpted capitals, a work by an anonymous master sculptor sometimes referred to as Master Calcarius during the 13th century. The choir lacks an apse. Externally, the Romanesque portals are also decorated with stone sculptures. Another portal, inside the choir and leading to the vestry, is even older, dating from the 12th century and decorated with the Lamb of God, which is also the heraldic symbol of Gotland. Given the location of the church at an ancient political site, this has led some scholars to speculate whether it was already a symbol for the island during the 1100s.
Tingstäde church has a baptismal font probably made by the little-known Master Majestatis, possibly a remnant of the first, wooden church. The church also has a noteworthytriumphal cross from the 14th century. The altarpiece is considerably later, dating from the 18th century, while the pews are probably from the 17th century.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.