The foundation charter of Säusenstein Abbey is dated 19 September 1336, when the founder, the nobleman Eberhard of Wallsee, granted the site and a substantial endowment to the Cistercian monks of Wilhering Abbey.
The abbey suffered from the Turkish invasions of the 16th century, particularly in connection with the Siege of Vienna in 1526. Although forethought on the part of abbots saved many of the abbey's valuables by sending them for safekeeping elsewhere in advance of the incursions, the community was unable to escape the punishing taxes of the war period, and descended into poverty: one abbot was nearly arrested for failure to pay taxes. During the Reformation, another abbot absconded with the cashbox.
The abbey survived nevertheless and from the later 17th century onwards regained morale and wealth. The premises were rebuilt, and the study of theology and philosophy flourished.
However, the rationalist reforms of the Emperor Joseph II brought about the dissolution of the abbey on 21 May 1789. The abbot of Seitenstetten was appointed administrator and a number of Säusenstein's treasures were removed to Seitenstetten. The buildings of Säusenstein were used as a military hospital by Napoleon's troops during their occupation of Austria, and the buildings were badly damaged by French excesses, resulting among other things in the almost total destruction in about 1801 of the church by arson. Further damage occurred in 1805 and 1809.
It was about this time that the abbey began to be known locally as 'Schloss' Säusenstein.
On the administrator's death in 1812, Säusenstein was taken over by the state, and was sold off in 1825 into private ownership. More destruction and neglect of the buildings followed, and significant demolition took place in 1856, including the loss of two sides of the cloisters, with the construction of the Austrian Western Railway across the site.
The last private owners sold it to the German government. Between 1939 and 1945 it served as an experimental agricultural institution. After the end of World War II Säusenstein lay in the Russian Zone and was occupied by Soviet troops for 10 years. When they left in 1955 the Austrian Forestry Commission took the site over, but paid little attention to the preservation of the buildings.
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.