The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) stands on the eastern side of the main market. An example of brick Gothic architecture, it was built on the initiative of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor between 1352 and 1362. The church contains many sculptures, some of them heavily restored. Numerous works of art from the Middle Ages are kept in the church, such as the so-called Tucher Altar (c. 1440, originally the high altar of the Augustinian church of St. Vitus), and two monuments by Adam Kraft (c. 1498).
The church was built in the grand market, in place of the former Jewish synagogue, which was destroyed during the pogrom of 1349 (which followed an outbreak of Black Death). The architect was probably Peter Parler. Charles IV wanted to use the Frauenkirche for imperial ceremonies, which is reflected in the porch with the balcony, and in the fact that the church is relatively unadorned except for the coats of arms of the Holy Roman Empire, the seven Electors, the town of Nuremberg, and the city of Rome, where the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned.
Charles IV's son Wenceslas was baptized in the church in 1361, on which occasion the Imperial Regalia, including the imperial reliquaries, were displayed to the people. Beginning in 1423, the Imperial Regalia was kept permanently in Nuremberg and displayed to the people once a year on a special wooden platform constructed for that purpose.
The Frauenkirche is a hall church with two aisles and a tribune for the emperor. The church contains nine bays supported by four columns. The triforium, named the Imperial Loft or St. Michael's Loft, opens on to the nave by means of an arcade, the arches of which are filled with floating tracery, consisting of three rosettes supported by a segmental arch. The narthex of the church contains tracery. All three sides of the narthex have portals, the jambs and archivolts of which are decorated with sculptures. The gable contains many niches, which used to house sculptures.
One of the most notable features of the church is the Männleinlaufen, a mechanical clock that commemorates the Golden Bull of 1356. The clock was installed in the church in 1506. The Holy Roman Emperor is shown seated with the prince-electors surrounding him.
The clock mechanism is activated at midday, a bell is rung to start the sequence followed by the trumpeters and drummer. Then there is a procession of the electors around the figure of the Holy Roman Emperor.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.