Saint-Étienne de Metz, also known as Metz Cathedral, is built on the site of an ancient the 5th century church dedicated to Saint Stephen protomartyr. According to Gregory of Tours, the shrine of Saint Stephen was the sole structure spared during the sack of 451 by Attila's Huns. The construction of the Gothic cathedral began in 1220 within the walls of an Ottonian basilica dating from the 10th century. The integration into the cathedral's ground plan of a Gothic chapel from the 12th century at the western end resulted in the absence of a main western portal; the south-western porch of the cathedral being the entrance of the former chapel. The work was completed around 1520 and the new cathedral was consecrated on 11 April 1552.
In 1755, French architect Jacques-François Blondel was awarded by the Royal Academy of Architecture to built a Neoclassical portal at the West end of the cathedral. He disengaged the cathedral's facade by razing an adjacent cloister and three attached churches and achieved the westwork in 1764.
In 1877, the Saint-Stephen of Metz was heavily damaged after a conflagration due to fireworks. After this incident, it was decided the refurbishment of the cathedral and its adornments within a Neogothic style. The western facade was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1903; the Blondel's portal was demolished and a new Neogothic portal was added.
The cathedral treasury exhibits the millennium rich collection of the Bishopric of Metz, including paraments and items used for the Eucharist.
Saint-Stephen of Metz has one of the highest naves in the world and the largest expanse of stained glass in the world with 6,496 m2. Those stained glass windows include works by Gothic and Renaissance master glass makers Hermann von Münster, Theobald of Lixheim, and Valentin Bousch and romantic Charles-Laurent Maréchal, tachist Roger Bissière, cubist Jacques Villon, and modernist Marc Chagall.
Saint-Stephen Cathedral is a Rayonnant Gothic edifice built with the local yellow Jaumont limestone. Like in French Gothic architecture, the building is compact, with slight projection of the transepts and subsidiary chapels. However, it displays singular, distinctive characteristics in both its ground plan and architecture compared to most of the other cathedrals. Because of topography of Moselle valley in Metz, the common west-east axis of the ground plan could not be applied and the church is oriented north-northeast. Moreover, unlike the French and German Gothic cathedrals having three portals surmounted by a rose window and two large towers, Saint-Stephen of Metz has a single porch at its western facade. One enters laterally in the edifice by another portal placed at the south-western side of the narthex, declining the usual alignment of the entrance with the choir.
The nave is supported by flying buttresses and culminates at 41.41 metres high, making one of the highest naves in the world. The height of the nave is contrasted by the relatively low height of the aisles with 14.3 metres high, reinforcing the sensation of tallness of the nave. This feature permitted the architects to create large, tall expanses of stained glass. Through its history, Saint-Stephen Cathedral was subjected to architectural and ornamental modifications with successive additions of Neoclassical and Neogothic elements.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.