The church of St. Thomas is the main Lutheran church of the city since its Cathedral became Catholic again after the annexation of the town by France in 1681. The site on which the current church stands was used as a place of worship under the patronage of Thomas the Apostle as early as the sixth century. In the ninth century, Bishop Adelochus established a magnificent church with adjoining school, however both burned down in 1007, and again in 1144. In 1196, construction began on the façade of a new, fortress-like building with an imposing steeple, built in the Roman style. Interrupted several times, the building work was completed in 1521, in the style of the late Gothic.
In 1524, the church converted to the Protestant faith, a status which it maintained despite annexation of Alsace to the Catholic France. It still administers the primary and secondary schools École Saint-Thomas and Foyer Jean Sturm, as well as the Séminaire Protestant, a seminary located in the adjacent Baroque building.
The church is a five-naved hall church, the oldest on the territory of former south-west Germany. Inside it is approximately 65 metres long and 30 metres wide, with a height of 22m (30m under the late-Gothic cupola). There is a gallery on the left outer aisle, and chapels to the left and right of the apse.
The church is internationally renowned for its historic and musically-significant organs: the 1741 Silbermann organ, played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1778 and faithfully restored in 1979 by Alfred Kern; the French organist Louis Thiry recorded the Art of fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach on this organ. Another organ is the 1905 organ (installed in 1906) built by Fritz Haerpfer, following a design by Albert Schweitzer.
Monuments at the church date from between 1130 and 1850. Most famous are the richly decorated sarcophagus of Bishop Adelochus (1130) and the huge, late-Baroque mausoleum of Marshall Maurice de Saxe (1777), created by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. Among the many other remarkable monuments, the Renaissance tombstone of Nikolaus Roeder von Tiersberg (1510) is notable for its realistic depiction of his decaying corpse. Roeder had been the donor of the life-size Mount of Olives group of sculptures (1498) now to be seen inside Strasbourg Cathedral. Neoclassical sculptor Landolin Ohmacht is represented by two works, one of them dedicated to Jean-Frédéric Oberlin.
A late-Gothic representation of Saint Michael is, after the Saint Christopher in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Wissembourg, the largest of its kind in France.
Of the medieval leaded windows, only the rose at the front of the church remains intact. In the nave, the upper parts of the windows are lavishly decorated with architectural and botanical motifs. The representations of saints that were originally found below were destroyed in the 16th century by Protestant iconoclasts. The choir windows are of a contemporary style.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.