The Dominican monastery at Prenzlau was founded in 1275, joining an existing Franciscan monastery and the Nunnery of Mary Magdalen. The monastery was thus a further spiritual centre serving Prenzlau's citizens, playing an important role in the growth of the town and ensuring its significance in the medieval Mark of Brandenburg.
The Dominican monastery's compound comprises the monastic church and the originally single-storey conclave. The oldest part of the compound is its eastern wing, which was built at the same time as the monastic church (beginning in 1275). After the completion of the southern and western wing halfway through the fourtheenth century, extensive structural work was undertaken, the resultings vaults taking in the entire space of the cloister.
The monastery was to be disbanded, with the town appropriating the monastic land as a consequence of the Reformation (1543-1544). The town put the conclave area to various uses; it served (amongst other uses) as a poorhouse, a gaol; as emergency housing, a boarding school and a retirement home, as well as being used several times as a hospital. The varying ways in which the building was used throughout the ages meant a large number of alterations were undertaken to reflect these uses: for example, the building's masard-style top storey was added in the early 19th century.
The former monastic church served to house the Evangelical Parish once worshipping at St. Nicolas' Church after the disbanding of the Dominican monastery. Today, the church adheres to the Evangelical Confession and boasts its own ecclesiastical superintendent.
The continual usage of the former Dominican monastery over the centuries as well as the fact that it was spared by the Second World War fighting that largely destroyed the rest of Prenzlau in April 1945 is responsible for the almost complete preservation of the monastery. Between 1945 and 1989, the site of the one-time conclave again housed municipal health services.
Extensive structural preservation work was undertaken by the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments beginning in 1990, so as to ensure the preservation of the building materials originally used in the construction of the monastery. Today, the Dominican monastery is regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of a 13th-14th century monastic compound in northern Germany. Particularly impressive is the monastery's almost entirely preserved spatial structure, which boasts all the typical Gothic ornamentation such as ribbed vaulting, embellished cornerstones, the extensive use of tracery and richly decorated columns and pillars, in addition to Late Gothic frescos painted onto the walls of the former guest refactory. Today, the monastery houses the town's Museum of Cultural History, the town archives and the municipal library. Selected spaces in the monastery are also available for hire to those organising cultural or artistic events in the town.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.