The Pühtitsa convent is located on a site known as Pühitsetud ("blessed" in Estonian) since ancient times. According to a 16th century legend, near the local village, Kuremäe, a shepherd witnessed a divine revelation near a spring of water to this day venerated as holy. Later, locals found an ancient icon of Dormition of the Mother of God under a huge oak tree. The icon still belongs to the convent.
A small Orthodox church was built in Pühtitsa in the 16th century. In 1888, the Russian Orthodox Church sent a nun from Kostroma Ipatiev Monastery to establish a convent in Pühtitsa. The convent was founded in 1891. The main Cathedral of the convent was built to a design by Mikhail Preobrazhensky in a Russian Revival style and was fully completed in 1910.
There are six churches in the convent dedicated to a number of Orthodox Christian Saints such as St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Simeon the Receiver of God, St. Nicholas, St. Anna the Prophetess and others. Prince Sergei Shakhovskoy governor-general of Estonia was convent's patron and protected it from local nobles, mostly German Lutherans, who tried to resist its construction. The convent was first Orthodox monastery built in Estonia to the delight of mostly Orthodox local Estonian and Russian peasants of Jõhvi county.
In 1919, after Estonia became independent from Russia, the new government confiscated most of the convent's land and transferred the convent to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow. During the Second World War the battlefront was at times only a few kilometres away from the convent and Germans organized a concentration camp for Russian prisoners of war inside the monastery compound.
Following the second invasion and occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union in 1944, the convent managed to survive despite the uneasy co-existence with the Communist authorities. Patriarch Alexius II who was the bishop (later the archbishop) of Tallinn and Estonia in the 1960s was instrumental in the fight to keep the convent from closure. In 1990 the Pühtitsa Convent was placed under the direct authority of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexius II. By 1991, the Pühtitsa monastic community consisted of 161 nuns.
Castel del Monte, located in the municipality of Andria, rises on a rocky hill dominating the surrounding countryside of the Murgia region. A unique piece of medieval architecture, it was completed in 1240. The castle’s location, its perfect octagonal shape, as well as the mathematical and astronomical precision of its layout all reflect the broad education and cultural vision of its founder, Emperor Frederick II.
As a leader of modern humanism, the Germanic Emperor brought scholars together in his court from throughout the Mediterranean, combining Eastern and Western traditions. The castle’s unique design, an octagonal plan with octagonal towers at each angle, represents a search for perfection. Interior features reflect Eastern influences, such as the innovative hydraulic installation used by Frederick II for bathing in accord to the typical Arabic customs.
The site is of outstanding universal value in its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world and classical antiquity. Castel del Monte is a unique masterpiece of medieval architecture, reflecting the humanist ideas of its founder, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen.