Saint-Sulpice is a huge Late Baroque parish church. It recently became even more popular with tourists than usual thanks to its prominent role in the novel The Da Vinci Code.
Saint Sulpicius, the patron of the church, was a 7th-century bishop of Bourges noted for his piety and his resistance to the tyranny of the Merovingian kings. The Church of St-Sulpice was founded by the Society of St-Sulpice to replace a small Gothic church. It was built over a century in several phases, with the various architects contributing different designs.
Construction began in 1646, was expanded on a larger scale in 1670, stalled from 1678 to 1719, then resumed under Gilles-Marie Oppenordt and was mostly complete by 1745. The west front was designed by the Florentine architect Giovanni Servandoni until 1766. The north tower was built by Chalgrin in 1778-80, but construction was abandoned before the south tower was completed.
During the Revolution, the Church of St-Sulpice was damaged and turned into a Temple of Victory. It was restored and redecorated in the 19th century with the help of Eugène Delacroix.
Known as the 'Cathedral of the Rive Gauche,' Saint-Sulpice is one of the largest churches in Paris. The facade is austere for a Baroque edifice and has a slightly lopsided appearance, as the south tower was never finished. Its Italianate design with open colonaddes looks like a cut-out from the Roman Colosseum.
In the church square, a fountain by Visconti (1844) bears sculptures of four bishops of the Louis XIV era: Fenelon, Massillon, Bossuet, and Flechier.
Inside, the main attractions of St-Sulpice are the Delacroix frescoes (1855-61) in the Chapelle des Anges (Chapel of the Angels), on the right inside the entrance. Subjects include Jacob wrestling with the angel, St. Michael defeating the devil, and Heliodorus being driven from the temple. More of the artist's work can be seen at Paris' Musée Delacroix. Another masterpiece of St-Sulpice is Servandoni's Rococo Chapelle de la Madone (Chapel of the Madonna), with a Pigalle statue of the Virgin.
The church's organ (1781) is one of the world's largest, with 6,588 pipes, and has been played by musicians like Marcel Dupré and Charles-Mari Widor. St-Sulpice is still known for its music today, and frequent concerts are held here. The organ was constructed by Aristide Cavaille-Coll, the case was designed by Chalgrin, and the statues were made by Clodion. It is located at the west end of the nave and provides the setting for a violent attack in The Da Vinci Code.
Saint-Sulpice plays an important role in the popular novel The Da Vinci Code. In chapters 19 and 22 of the book, an albino monk-assassin named Silas pays a visit to Saint-Sulpice, based on instructions Saunière revealed to Silas at gunpoint in the Louvre. The monk searches for a keystone believed to unlock the secret of the Holy Grail.
Da Vinci Code fans will especially be interested in the meridian line or gnomon, a narrow brass strip that the monk uses as a reference point in his quest for the Grail. Look for one end near the middle of the nave on the right side, near a stone statue with a Latin inscription. From there, it runs north across the nave and transept to an obelisk next to the statue of St. Peter.
The meridian line is a fascinating astronomical instrument of the 18th century, used to study the planets and determine the date of Easter each year. The sun's rays enter the church through a small opening in the south transept and rest on the line at various points throughout the year. On the winter solstice, the rays hit the obelisk; on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the bronze table. The obelisk bears a Latin inscription that doesn't quote Job, but describes the use of the meridian line.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.