There are two adjacent medieval churches in Gran called as Søsterkirkene, the sister churches. According to local folklore, the two churches were commissioned by two sisters who had fallen out and therefore would not be seen in the same church. It is, however, not uncommon for medieval churches with different functions to be built close to one another.
The smaller one, dedicated to St. Mary, was built probably before 1150. It is a single nave church, which either acted as a monastic church or a church for Gran parish and contains Romanesque and Gothic elements. A fire in 1813 gutted the church and it was not rebuilt until 1859. Until recently it was used as a chapel, but is now open for normal services. It can seat around 150 people.
The larger of the two churches is called Nikolaikirken (St. Nicholas Church). This church probably acted as a church for Hadeland parish and can seat around 250 people. Because of later rebuilding it is difficult to establish an exact date of construction. Based on stylistic evidence, however, it is thought that the church was built sometime between 1150 and 1200. The church is built as a basilica church with solid Roman columns and plastered walls. Much of the original interior has been lost in fires and in subsequent rebuilding.
In the south-eastern part of the churchyard there is a medieval stone tower, Klokketårnet, the original function of which is unknown. It is possible that the tower, which from the mid-19th century was used as a bell-tower, was originally used as a defence tower or refuge. The 11th century Granavollen Runestone can be found behind Nikolaikirken.
The towers of the Søsterkirkene form the base coat of arms to Gran municipality. Noted poet and journalist, Aasmund Olafsson Vinje, is buried in the cemetery of Søsterkirkene. A monument with a bust of Vinjes by sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien was erected at the site.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.