The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula has been since 1962 the co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, together with St. Rumbold's Cathedral in Mechelen.
A chapel dedicated to St. Michael was probably built on the Treurenberg hill as early as the 9th century. In the 11th century it was replaced by a Romanesque church. In 1047, Lambert II, Count of Leuven founded a chapter in this church and organized the transportation of the relics of the martyr St. Gudula, housed before then in Saint Gaugericus Church on Saint-Géry Island. The patron saints of the church, St. Michael and St. Gudula, are also the patron saints of the city of Brussels.
In the 13th century, Henry I, Duke of Brabant ordered two round towers to be added to the church. Henry II, Duke of Brabant instructed the building of a Gothic collegiate church in 1226. The choir was constructed between 1226 and 1276. It took about 300 years to complete the entire church. It was completed just before the reign of the emperor Charles V commenced in 1519.
The cathedral is built of stone from the Gobertange quarry. The western façade with its three portals surmounted by gables and two towers are typical of the French Gothic style, but without rose window, which was replaced by a large window in the Brabantian Gothic style. The two towers, the upper parts of which are arranged in terraces, are attributed to the Flemish architect Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1470-1485), who also designed the tower of the Town Hall of Brussels. The south tower contains a 49-bell carillon by the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry on which Sunday concerts are often given. The Salvator bell was cast by Peter van den Gheyn.
The choir is gothic and contains the mausoleums of the Dukes of Brabant and Archduke Ernest of Austria made by Robert Colyn de Nole in the 17th century. Left of the choir is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament of the Miracle (1534-1539) built in a flamboyant Gothic style. It now houses the Treasure of the Cathedral. Right of the choir is the Chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance (1649-1655) which is built in a late Gothic style and has a Baroque altar by Jan Voorspoel (1666). Behind the choir is a Baroque chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen dated 1675 and a marble and alabaster altarpiece depicting the Passion of Christ by Jean Mone dated 1538.
The nave has all the characteristics of the Brabantine Gothic style: the four-part vaults are moderately high and the robust cylindrical columns that line the central aisle of the nave are topped with capitals in the form of cabbage leaves. Statues of the 12 apostles are attached to the columns. These statues date from the 17th century and were created by sculptors Lucas Faydherbe, Jerôme Duquesnoy the Younger, Johannes van Mildert and Tobias de Lelis, all renowned sculptors of their time. The statues replaced those destroyed by iconoclasts in 1566.
The nave has a Baroque pulpit from the 17th century, made by Antwerp sculptor Hendrik Frans Verbruggen in 1699.
The northern and southern transepts have a stained-glass window by Jean Haeck from Antwerp made in 1537 after drawings by Bernard van Orley. To the right of the portal of the northern transept is an elegant 17th century sculptured depicting The education of the Holy Virgin by Saint Anna by Jerôme Duquesnoy the Younger after a painting by Rubens.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.