Silte Church dates from from the 13th century. During restorative work carried out in 1971-72, the remains of a stave church was however found under the floor of the presently visible church, pre-dating the present church with around one hundred years. The oldest part of the now visible stone church is the choir, dating from the middle of the century and in an early Gothic style. The nave is only slightly later, and apparently by the same workshop, while the tower seems to have been added at the end of the century.
The church is an almost unaltered medieval church. Unusually, even the window openings are original. These, as well as the portals, are decorated with stone dressings in alternating colours. The southern portal is also decorated with carved ornaments in Norse style. One of the choir windows contains some original stained glass window panes, dating from the time of the church's construction. Inside, the church is decorated with frescos from four different periods. The earliest date from the time of the church's construction, and are purely ornamental. On the western wall of the nave, a number of frescos from circa 1300 depict several saints. Next to these is a fresco depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ; these date from the middle of the 15th century. A final set of frescos, dated 1495, adorn the souther wall of the nave.
The church has two particularly noteworthy furnishings: the altarpiece and the baptismal font. The altarpiece is unique in its style on Gotland. Its outer wings are painted, and depict St. Michael, Mary and, on the back, the annunciation. These painting date from circa 1500. The central panel, by contrast, is decorated with wooden sculptures depicting the final judgement, and date from the 13th century. The baptismal font dates from the late 12th century and is thus older than the stone church. It was made by Master Sigraf, and is richly sculptured. Most other furnishings such as pews date from 1902, when a renovation was carried out. The pulpit is however from the middle of the 18th 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.