Serrabone Priory is a former monastery of Canons Regular in the commune of Boule-d'Amont. The priory is located in a wild and beautiful area in the valley of the Boulès in the heart of an oak forest, at the centre of the Aspres mountain range. It is famous for its splendid marble rostrum from the 12th century, regarded as a masterpiece of Romanesque art.
The name of the monastery derives from the Catalan serra bona, meaning 'good mountain'. The original foundation - of which order if any is unclear - on the site took place in the 10th or 11th century and is recorded in a document of 1069. In 1082, under the patronage of the local lords and the Count of Conflent, who gave it property and revenues, it was re-established as an Augustinian priory.
The first church at Serrabone had just one nave with a pointed barrel vault. An extensive transformation took place in the 12th century. A transept and three apses replaced the earlier chevet. The principal apse, protruding on the exterior, is flanked by two absidoles enclosed in the walls. On the north side there is a second nave and a bell tower, on the south side a cloister, and another building containing three rooms.
The thick walls of the nave are built of local schist rubble stone. The second construction was more elaborate and used large blocks of cut schist which were carefully placed.
The sculptures in the cloister, the main portal, the window in the apsidole and the gallery, are all worked in pink marble from the Conflent, which makes a startling contrast to the green-grey of the schist.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.