Panagia Eleousa church dates to the 16th century, and is two aisled, rather than the three which would be more normal for the style of the time. The aisles end in a pair of cylindrical apses. Outside the church are the remains of the monastery which this church once served.
The two aisles are separated by a double archway, with the northern aisle being much smaller than the southern one. This difference in size can also be noticed from the outside in the different dimensions of the windows at the eastern end. The whole of the western end is a later addition, and the join can be seen both externally and internally.
The main door of the church shows Lusignan influences, which explains the lopsided nature of the church. The French Lusignans were Latin Christians, and while not actually banning Orthodox Christianity, treated it as second class. There are other examples in the Middle East where the ruling classes reluctantly allowed the peasants space to worship in their churches. To remind them of their place, the space allocated to the Orthodox Christians was much smaller than that allocated to the Latin Christians.
Although disused, the church continues to be a place of pilgrimage by Orthodox visitors, and it is unusual to visit and not see a lit candle.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.