St Sampson's Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in St. Petersburg. Rumor has it that it was in St. Sampson's Cathedral that Catherine II of Russia secretly married Grigory Potemkin in 1774.
The original wooden church was built in 1710 to honor Sampson the Hospitable. It was on the feast day of that saint that Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Battle of Poltava. The existing church was built under Empress Anna to a design by Pietro Antonio Trezzini. It was consecrated in 1740. The tent-like belltower was built at a later date. The original church had only one dome; the four subsidiary domes were added in 1761.
The church was considerably renovated as part of the battle's bicentennial celebrations. A Rastrelliesque chapel was constructed on the grounds, and Peter I's address to his soldiers at Poltava was inscribed on the wall. It was at that time that the church was elevated to cathedral status. The parish was disbanded by the Soviets in the 1930s, and the building was converted into a warehouse. It was restored in the late 1970s and reopened in 2000 as a museum attached to St. Isaac's Cathedral.
The grave yard which surrounds the church has been filled for centuries. Some of the city's first foreign architects, including Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond and Domenico Trezzini, were buried there. The tomb of Artemy Volynsky and Pyotr Yeropkin (both executed exactly 31 years after the Poltava victory) is made by Alexander Opekushin (1885). The statue of Peter the Great in front of the cathedral was designed by Mark Antokolsky. It was removed by the Soviets and restored in 2003 as part of the city's tercentenary celebrations.
On 5th February 2017 the cathedral was transferred from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church at a ceremony in the cathedral.
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.