Grestain Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Grestain) was an 11th century Benedictine monastery. Closely associated with the family of William, Duke of Normandy, the abbey was instrumental in the Normans taking control over the Catholic Church in England in the centuries following the Norman Conquest of England, establishing new churches and priories in England, and Abbots of Grestain ordained many English priests. Many churches mentioned in the Domesday Book cite Grestain as the founding establishment.
The Abbey was founded in 1050 by Herluin de Conteville and his wife Arlette, mother of William the Conqueror. Herluin, a victim of leprosy, was said to have seen a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who told him to take a spa treatment at the source of the Carbec stream in Grestain (Carbec meaning 'the Stream of Kari'). Cured, he decided to build an abbey in the nearby Valley of Vilaine dedicated to the Virgin and a chapel at Carbec, a site also dedicated to the healing spring of Saint-Méen. Herluin's son, Robert de Mortain, half-brother of William, was the principal benefactor, endowing it with his revenues from England.
In 1358, the abbey was sacked by the Anglo-Navarrais. The monks took refuge at their safe house in Rouen, in the parish of Saint-Eloi. Between 1364-1365 the abbey was attacked once more. On the return of the monks, the abbey had been partly destroyed and nearly rased to the ground.
The abbey was officially closed in 1757 on the orders of the bishop. The church buildings were demolished around 1766 and the rest of abbey destroyed in 1790; of these buildings, only a few ruins remain, integrated into the Château de La Pommeraye (a private property): a defensive wall, a 13th-Century portal, an 18th century manor with a 13th century floor, and remains of the church.A monunment has been erected to the memory of the founders who were buried in the now defunct church: Arlette, Herluin and Robert de Mortain, as well as Robert's wife, Mathilde de Montgomerie, daughter of Roger de Montgomerie.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.