Sundre Church was originally built as the church for a large farmstead. This first church was wooden, and built during the early 12th century. A few painted remains of the church have been preserved at the Museum of Gotland in Visby. They were painted by a Russian artist and the scene depicts the Last Judgement. It has been speculated whether the remains were originally parts of an iconostasis, given the Russian origin of the work, but more probably they are the remains of a ceiling.
The first church was torn down during the early 13th century and replaced by the presently visible stone church in Romanesque style. Before that, however, a defensive tower had been built near the church, the ruins of which are still standing. It probably served as a haven for the congregation in times of danger or war. The tower of the church was added in the middle of the 13th century.
No major alterations have been made to the church since the Middle Ages, except for the addition of the vestry. Restorations were carried out in 1931 and 1969-1970.
During a large part of its history, the church functioned as a navigational aid for sea-farers, as it is located on a height not far from the sea. It appears as such in a Dutch navigation book in 1627.
The church is built of local sandstone, except the entrance portals which are executed in more durable limestone. It is a relatively homogeneous Romanesque church. The interior of the church is decorated with a suite of medieval frescos depicting the Passion of Christ. A few medieval wooden sculptures have also been preserved, including a triumphal crossfrom the 15th century. The perhaps most unique piece from the church is an organ dating from 1370 and today also on display in the Museum of Gotland in Visby. According to an inscription in Latin, it was made by a master named Verner from Brandenburg. It depicts the coats of arms of what has been interpreted as the ten farms of the parish.
Near the church are the relatively well-preserved ruins of a circular defensive tower, dating from the early Middle Ages.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.