The first Château de Gratot was built during the 14th century, but it underwent many transformations until the 18th century. It was constructed by the family of Argouges, barons of Gratot, who sold the castle in 1771. The castle is built in a number of styles, the most recent addition being a pavilion built in the 18th century.The castle was neglected in the 19th century, and was used as a fodder warehouse for local farmers. It was definitively abandoned at the start of the 20th century. The main restoration work took place in the late 60's and 70's, requiring tonnes of rubble to be removed from the cellars and ground floor, and the castle grounds to be cleared of undergrowth. Since then some buildings, including two of the towers, have been rebuilt, including adding wooden roofs to the towers and some buildings. Historical documents and 19th-century paintings showing the castle as a romantic ruin were used to guide reconstruction efforts. The 18th-century pavilion has been fully restored with roof, floors, a staircase, windows and electricity, allowing it to be used for exhibitions and cultural events. The latest renovation work concentrates on the formal gardens: only the shape of the gardens can currently be seen, with no paths or planting.
Nearly 12,600 visitors went to the castle during 2003. It is now classed as a Monument historique (Historic monument) by the French Ministry of Culture. It is open to the public all year round. During the summer months there is a welcome desk and gift shop: the remainder of the year guidebooks are available to visitors to guide themselves around.
A little bridge with three arches spans the moat and gives access to the porch. The outhouses are located on both sides of the postern. A tower is raised in the west corner. The main residence building, now in 18th century style, originally had three floors and nearly fifteen rooms. The roof is à la Mansart. Large windows open into the ground floor, and high spire lights at the first floor.
The round tower of the castle was erected in the 15th century and has a medieval look. A sudden narrowing in the spiral staircase prevents two attackers ascending simultaneously. The entry to the cellars opens at the bottom of the tower. At the top of the tower is a guards' room where remnants of medieaval wall paintings may still be seen.Another angle tower from the medieval period (13th century) remains: the door has been walled up. The Fairy tower (La tour de la fée) was constructed at the end of the 15th century, and is supported by strong buttresses. The base is octagonal, and is finished by a rectangular room: the roof has two panels. The top is decoreted by balusters and gargoyles.
The outbuildings were constructed around the end of the 16th century. In a hall near the entrance is an exhibition called 'Eight centuries of life' (Huit siècles de vie), about the history of the castle and the different steps of its restoration. As a cultural center, the castle regularly houses artistic events (painting, sculptures) and an annual theatrical production.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.