The Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity), also known as Abbaye aux Dames, is a former monastery of women. The complex includes the Abbey Church of Sainte-Trinité. The abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery of nuns in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda of Flanders as the Abbaye aux Dames ('Women's Abbey'), as well as the Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men's Abbey'), formally the Abbey of Saint-Étienne. The works began in 1062, starting from the rear and finished in 1130. Matilda, who died in 1083, was buried in the choir under a slab of black marble.
The original spires were destroyed in the Hundred Years' War and replaced by less striking balustrades in the early 18th century. The community of nuns were dispersed and suppressed by the French Revolution. In 1823 the local city council decided to transfer the ancient Hôtel-Dieu (possibly also founded by William the Conqueror, but more likely King Henry II of England), to the former cloister for use as a hospital, and the canonesses regular, who had assumed responsibility for the hospital from the two abbeys during the 14th century, established themselves there. The canonesses continued to operate there until 1908 when the facility was given to the Hospice Saint-Louis for use as a nursing home. The vault was demolished and rebuilt in 1865. The church was last restored between 1990 and 1993.
The façade has two large towers on the sides, each with doors leading to the aisles. The pediment of the central bay echoes the nave roof. The tympanum of the central portal depicts the Trinity and the four apocalyptic beasts, symbols of the Four Evangelists.
The nave is flanked by pointed arches surmounted by a gallery (triforium) which supports the groin vault, the first of this type built in Normandy (1130). The transept, in the centre of the church, houses the main altar. The northern transept is in Romanesque style, opening over a small apse (the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament) which houses the tabernacle. The southern transept is characterised by Gothic columns integrated within the Romanesque decoration. The choir ends with an apse decorated by four columns and a gallery with fantastic figures. Also present is a crypt in honour of Saint Nicholas.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.