The Church of St. Lawrence dates back to ca. 1450 and is the oldest building in Vantaa and all of Greater Helsinki. Along with its surrounding neighborhood, the church is a part of the Helsingin pitäjän kirkonkylä district, which is one of the best preserved historical parishes in all of Finland.
The Church of St. Lawrence was partially destroyed in a fire on 7 May 1893, after which it was reconstructed in a Gothic Revival style.
The Church of St. Lawrence was built around the year 1450, though records suggest that a wooden equivalent stood in its position as early as 1401. Prior to the Protestant Reformation and the introduction of Lutheranism into Finland, the church served the Roman Catholic Church. It was built as the church of Helsinki Parish, well before Helsinki, the city, was founded in 1550. The parish village with its church was favorably located on a coastal road between Turku and Vyborg. A branch of the salmon-rich River Vantaa ran through the village as well.
On 7 May 1893, the church was largely destroyed by a conflagration, leaving behind only its stone walls and vaults. Reconstruction was overseen by the renowned Finnish architect Theodor Höijer, who opted to alter the appearance of the church by increasing the sizes of its windows and tending toward a Gothic Revival style. The reconstruction, or as it was referred to, the restoration, was influenced by the cultural context of the late 1800s, during which Medieval architecture was gaining newfound respect in Finland.
The church was reopened in 1894, marking the then-believed 400 year anniversary of the building. More recently, the church has been recognized as older, by at least 50 years.
The façade of the church is reminiscent of other Finnish medieval churches, such as the Porvoo Cathedral. The reason for the similarity is that many churches from that time period in southern Finland were designed by the same person, the anonymous Pernajan mestari, who is presumed to be a German architect. The church has, however, been redesigned to some extent following the fire of 1893, leading to the current design being a mixture of Medieval and Gothic Revival architecture.
The Church of St. Lawrence has an external bell tower located next to the front of the building. It was completely destroyed in 1893 and rebuilt in a style similar to the Gothic Revival style of the church building. The tower has two bells, and its roof is peaked by a flèche with a cockerel weather vane.
The church is surrounded by a graveyard, which acts as the primary graveyard for the parishes of Vantaa. Up until 1793, the graveyard remained constrained to its original size, until an inspection deemed it too crowded. Since then, it has been regularly expanded to suit the needs of the growing population. The graveyard's current area is about 10 hectares. It's most notable grave is the mausoleum of Swedish naval commander Carl Olof Cronstedt.
Prior to the fire of 1893, the church interior remained largely unchanged throughout the centuries. One change that took place was the treating of the inner walls with chalk; in the middle ages, the walls were decorated with Medieval paintings, but by the 18th century, the walls were chalked white. The fire revealed several pre-Reformation paintings on the church vaults, though contemporaries deemed the paintings artistically worthless and "primitive". Before being painted over again, the art historian Emil Nervander made replica paintings of them, which are currently stored by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities.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.