Münsterschwarzach Abbey, dedicated to the Holy Saviour, the Virgin Mary and Saint Felicity, was founded before 788 as a nunnery. It was a private foundation of the Carolingian ruling house: the abbesses were daughters of the imperial family, for example Theodrada (d. 853), a daughter of Charlemagne. After the death of the last Carolingian abbess, Bertha, in 877, the nuns left the abbey and it was taken over by Benedictines.
Münsterschwarzach became a centre of monastic reform during the 12th century, when Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg, who was in close contact with the reform movements of Cluny, Gorze and Hirsau, appointed Egbert of Gorze as abbot. Egbert not only reformed and renewed the spiritual life of Münsterschwarzach but then, through the spread of the subsequent Münsterschwarzach Reforms, exerted an influence far beyond it, from Harsefeld Archabbey near Stade in the north to Melk and Lambach in the south.
In the 18th century a Baroque basilica was commissioned from Balthasar Neumann, with frescoes in the cupolas by Holzer; it was dedicated in 1743 by Bishop Friedrich Karl von Schönborn.
In 1803 the abbey was dissolved in the course of the secularisation of Bavaria. The monastic buildings were auctioned off. In 1805 the abbey church was sold and deconsecrated. In 1810 the buildings were struck by lightning and severely damaged by the subsequent fire, and between 1821 and 1827 the remains of the church were entirely demolished, and those of the monastic buildings largely demolished.
In 1913 the remains of the old abbey were re-acquired by the Missionary Benedictines, along with the necessary land to support it. The first abbot after the restoration was Dom Placidus Vogel (1914-1937). He was followed by Dom Burkhard Utz (1937-1959) and Dom Bonifaz Vogel (1959-1982), a nephew of Abbot Placidus. The monumental abbey church with its four towers was built between 1935 and 1938, when it was dedicated. The architect was Albert Bosslet.
Between 1941 and 1945 the abbey was confiscated by the National Socialists and used as a military hospital. Although the monastic community had been expelled, some monks were able to remain as workers in the hospital. It reopened after the war.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.