The Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world still standing. Erected sometime in the 4th century AD, it was originally part of a Roman-era spa when Divodurum, the former name of Metz, was a major military and trade center along the Germanic frontier. Specifically it was used as a pagan gymnasium when Christianity in Western Europe was still in its infancy. It was one of the few buildings in the city to remain standing after the Huns passed through in 451 AD.
Metz was an important cradle of Frankish civilization, with both Merovingians and Carolingians tracing their ancestry to the place. After the conversion of Clovis I to Catholicism, Metz became a Christian stronghold. During the 7th century, the old Roman gymnasium was converted to use as a Benedictine church. During the reign of Charlemagne, Metz was almost chosen as the capital city of the newly founded Holy Roman Empire, an honor which was instead bestowed on nearby Aachen. Neverthless Charlemagne was apparently fond of the old church, and two of his sons were buried in what would later be designated the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains.
Amazingly, the original Roman structure remained essentially intact throughout the Middle Ages. Apparently by the 16th century the old edifice was showing its age, and the Church moved out. It then spent over 400 years in service as a warehouse: a perfectly intact thousand-year-old building, one of the best preserved Roman constructions in the world, was then used for storage. Thankfully, its historical importance was recognized in the 1970s and the basilica was restored. It is now used primarily as a concert hall, a fitting tribute to its medieval musical heritage.
The interior is much less Roman in appearance than the exterior, as the whole place was renovated in the 10th century, and again in the 20th century. Although still designated as a Basilica by the Roman Catholic Church, the building’s use nowadays is for musical functions and exhibitions. It is certainly an ideal place to see Gregorian Chant music performed.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.