The current Roma church was preceded by a considerably smaller, Romanesque church. Some fragments from this church have been re-used and incorporated in the façade of the later church. The still extant sacristy is also a remnant of this earlier church.
The earlier church was torn down and successively replaced with Gothic style building between 1215 and 1255. Dendrochronological examinations have shown that the latest additions were made in 1280. The nave and choir seem to have been erected during a single period of construction, possibly with the exception for the westernmost part of the nave, which is slightly different in style. A tower was evidently planned for the church but never executed. Influences for the somewhat unusual architecture may have come from nearby Roma Abbey and thus the traditions of Cistercian architecture. The church has remained largely unaltered since the Middle Ages. The large western rose window was however added in the 1880s.
The church seems to have had a special function. It was built close to the location of the thing of all of Gotland, and not far from a Cistercian monastery, Roma Abbey. Unlike a regular church, it had five entrances (instead of three) and its architecture differs from other churches on Gotland. The likeness of the church with that of the Dominicans in Visby (now ruined) is noticeable. There is therefore reason to believe that the church may have been used by the Dominicans, possibly to preach for crusades against non-Christians in what is today the Baltic states.
The interior is characterised by the renovation in Neo-Gothic style from 1902. The interior is relatively dark, and few medieval furnishings survive. The altarpiece and the pews date from 1902. An older altarpiece has been transferred to one of the nave walls; it dates from 1656. A few medieval tombstones are displayed in the church, and the baptismal font is also medieval. Dating from the 13th century, it has no equivalents on Gotland but has more in common with baptismal fonts from Småland and Östergötland from the time.
In the cemetery, there is a bell tower in which three bells hang. Before 1929, these bells belonged to the Swedish-speaking minority village of Gammalsvenskby in Ukraine.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.