The Wenecja locality’s history is associated with the figure of Mikołaj Nałęcz of Chomiąża who in 14th century built a castle on the isthmus between the three lakes. As he saw his new residence similar to Venice in terms of its situation features, he named the site Wenecja (Polish for ‘Venice’). Wenecja was granted municipal rights in 1411 and maintained them into 16th century. Their loss was caused by changed political arrangements, as combined with a lessened importance of the castle in the strategic map of Poland after 2nd Peace Treaty of Toruń (Thorn) in 1466.
The castle was built by Mikołaj Nałęcz of Chomiąża around 1395, as a stone edifice intertwined with brick elements, founded on a square plan, side length 33 m. Its convenient situation between the three lakes has increased its value as a fortress. The castle was a notorious place for almost the entire period of its existence. In the initial years, this was so because of Mikołaj Nałęcz who, being a judge of Kalisz, had made a name for himself due to extremely cruel verdicts he was passing, which won him the nickname of the Wenecja Devil. Others believe that the sobriquet was coined in the course of a cruel civil war that rumbled through the area of Wielkopolska in 1382 to 1385. As Wenecja was taken over by the Gniezno bishopric, the castle was last upgraded in 1435, the works being led by Gregor of Ossek, brought along from Moravia. The castle was surrounded then with an additional pentagonal wall and a dirt wall; moreover, the stronghold was furnished with canons launching stone balls of diameters 3.4cm to 25cm. At that time, a gaol for priests sentenced by an ecclesial court was in operation there. As the 2nd Peace of Thorn was entered into in 1466, the castle ultimately lost its military significance and its slow decline is dated ever since.
Today, the castle is a picturesque ruin to which tourists visiting the nearby Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum and sightseeing other attractions on the Piast Route willingly pay visits.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.