Saint Paul's Abbey in Lavanttal is a Benedictine monastery established in 1091 by the Sponheim count Engelbert I, Margrave of Istria. It was built on the site of a former castle and a church consecrated by Archbishop Hartwig of Salzburg in 991.
Backed by subsidies from Hirsau Abbey as well as by Engelbert's brother Archbishop Hartwig of Magdeburg, the monastery quickly prospered and with its own scriptorium and a grammar school evolved to the most significant Abbey in Carinthia. Pope Urban II put it unter papal protection in 1099 and prevented the development to a proprietary monastery of the Sponheim dynasty.
During the 15th century conflict of the Habsburg duke Frederick III with the Counts of Celje, the troops of Count Ulrich II devastated the premises. The abbey was again ravaged by Ottoman forces in 1476 and besieged by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus in 1480. In the beginning Ottoman–Habsburg wars, the Habsburg rulers increasingly encumbered the monastery with tributes, they rivalled with the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg to exert influence, while the conventual life decayed. In the 16th century, large parts of Carinthia turned Protestant and two abbots were declared deposed by Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria.
The resurgence of St. Paul's began under Hieronymus Marchstaller, abbot from 1616. The derelict premises around the monastery church were rebuilt according to plans modelled on the Spanish Escorial. The reconstruction was completed under Marchstaller's successors until 1683.
The abbey was dissolved in 1782 by decree of Emperor Joseph II, but resettled in 1809 with monks descending from St. Blaise Abbey in the Black Forest.
Within the abbey precinct there is a Romanesque basilica dating from the end of the 12th century. After a fire in 1367 a Gothic vaulted ceiling was added, painted with 44 frescoes by the Tyrolean masters Friedrich and Michael Pacher.
The interior decoration of the church by the Styrian artist Philipp Jakob Straub dates from the 18th century. Beneath the Baroque high altar is a crypt, in which are the coffins of 13 members of the Habsburg family.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.