The abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou is located in the Pyrenees on Canigou mountain near the Spanish border. The original Romanesque style monastery was built from 1005 to 1009 by Guifred, Count of Cerdanya, in atonement for the murder of his son and was populated by Benedictine monks.
In 1049, Guifred, Count of Cerdanya, died at the monastery he had built. In 1051 a messenger set forth to visit religious houses throughout Europe to solicit prayers for his dead master. He brought a parchment upon which at each stop were added words of prayer and respect. This parchment has survived and scholars have used it to discover differences in culture between northern and southern Europe in a single given year. Some of the discoveries from this important document include that southern culture was more staid and bound by custom while the northern culture more free form and experimental in their writing styles, use of words and grammar.
The monastery was damaged in the Catalan earthquake of 1428. It was secularized in 1782 and as abandoned fell into disrepair. During the French Revolution, the abbey was closed, and its contents scattered. The buildings were then transformed into a stone quarry for nearby residents, the capitals of the cloister were looted, as well as sculptures and furniture.
In 1902, the bishop of Elne and Perpignan, because of his Catalan background, began to restore the ruins radically, work that was completed in 1932. Today it is occupied by the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes.
The abbey consists of two churches in the First Romanesque style; the lower church, dedicated to St. Mary, and the upper, dedicated to St. Martin. The lower church is predominantly black, and vault height rarely exceeds 3 meters. The eastern part probably dates back to the consecration of 1009, while the rest of the building dates from the years 1010-1020, in conjunction with work after acquiring the relics of St. Ganders and new consecration of the church.
The upper church was built between the years 1010-1020. Its construction required the strengthening of the columns of the lower church, which were enclosed in square piles. Similar to the lower church, the Saint-Martin church is composed of three naves separated by monolithic columns and barrel vaulted semicircular. The gatehouse is no longer than 19 meters after being damaged in the 1428 earthquake. It was never fully restored. The rest of the convent buildings date from the early 20th century.
Since the restorations of 1900-1920 it is difficult to imagine the original appearance of the cloister. The cloister once had two levels, the first built in the early 11th century and the second to the late 12th century. The lower level, which showed vaulted galleries and semicircular arches was bare of any decoration. Nowadays, there remain only three galleries that have been heavily restored, lacking their original character. The upper level, had marble capitals, which were scattered after the closure of the monastery during the French Revolution. The restoration recovered some, which were incorporated in the new southern gallery.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.