The Romanesque tower is the oldest part of Hejnum Church. It originally formed part of a Romanesque church, but the nave and choir were replaced during the mid-13th century by the presently visible, more Gothic parts. Remains of the original church were discovered during an excavation in 1914. A runic inscription above the western portal of the tower bears the inscription 'Botvid master mason'. The church remains largely unchanged since the Middle Ages and underwent a renovation in 1960.
The church consists of a nave, a more narrow choir, a sacristy and the western tower. The tower has openings for the church bells supported by colonnettes and an octagonal spire. Several stone reliefs, one portal and parts of a frieze from the original, Romanesque church have been incorporated into the façade of the presently visible church. The main portal of the church is unusually located on the north side of the church, since the church is located south of the road. The lancet-shaped windows, including the three slender windows in the east wall of the choir, are all original. The choir portal has decoration similar to that of Hellvi Church and has been attributed to a stonemason named Lavrans Botvidarsson. Internally, the church is decorated by frescos; one set dating from circa 1250 and another, by the so-called Master of the Passion of Christ, from the 15th century.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.