San Lazzaro degli Armeni is a small island in the Venetian Lagoon. Settled in the 9th century, it was a leper colony during the Middle Ages. It was later abandoned. In 1717 San Lazzaro was ceded by the Republic of Venice to Mkhitar Sebastatsi (Mechitar) and his followers who established an Armenian Catholic monastery.
The monastery currently contains a church with a campanile (bell tower), residential quarters, library, museums, picture gallery, manuscript repository, printing plant, sundry teaching and research facilities, gardens, a bronze statue of Mkhitar erected by Antonio Baggio in 1962, an Armenian Genocide memorial erected in the 1960s, and a 14th-century basalt khachkar (cross stone) donated by the Soviet Armenian government in 1987.
The cloister of the monastery consists of a colonnade of 42 columns in the Doric order. There is a 15th-century water well in the center of the cloister, which is surrounded by trees and shrubs. Archaeological findings such as a Phoenician and early Christian inscriptions, a first century headless statue of a Roman noble from Aquileia and other artifacts.
The campanile (bell tower) was completed in 1750. It is described as onion-shaped and oriental in style. It is not attached to the church and stands alone near the northern side of the church.
The church of San Lazzaro, although renovated several times through centuries, retains the 14th century pointed arch style. The church was restored extensively by Mkhitar in 1722, five years after the settlement of Armenian monks. He completely rebuilt the altar. Its apse was extended in 1899 primarily with an addition of neo-Gothic elements. The church has a neo-Gothic interior. It is three-naved, supported by 6 red marble columns. The main altar is in Baroque style. The three main windows of the altar's apse have stained glass which depict from left to right: Sahak Patriarch, Saint Lazarus, and Mesrop Mashtots. In the church, there are frescoes and paintings by Antonio Ermolao Paoletti depicting Saint Peter, Saint Paul, John the Baptist and Saint Stephen. The tomb of Mekhitar is located in the front of the altar.
Besides the main altar, there are four other altars dedicated to the Holy Cross, St. Gregory the Illuminator, Mary, and Anthony the Great. All built in the period of 1735–38 by Mekhitar. They are all adorned by pieces of works, mainly by Venetian artists. The St. Gregory altarpiece by Noè Bordignon depicts the saint performing the baptism of the Armenian king Tiridates III. The altarpiece dedicated to the mother of Jesus depicts the Nativity of Mary by Domenico Maggiotto. The altarpiece of St. Anthony by Francesco Zugno depicts the founder of the Oriental monasticism, who inspired Mekhitar.
The Armenian museum now houses items related to Armenian history and art, inducing helmets and bronze belts from the Urartian period and the sword of Leo V, the last Armenian King of Cilicia, forged in Sis in 1366.
Oriental and Egyptian publications and artifacts are held what is called 'Lord Byron Room', because it is where he studied Armenian language and culture during his visit to San Lazzaro. Its most notable item is the Egyptian mummy, attributed to Namenkhet Amun, a priest at the Amon Temple in Karnak. It was sent to San Lazzaro in 1825 by Boghos Bey Yusufian, an Egyptian minister of Armenian origin. Radiocarbon dating revealed that it dates to 450–430 BC (late Period of ancient Egypt). The collection also includes Etruscan vases, Chinese antiques, a princely Indian throne with ivory inlay work, and a rare papyrus in 12 segments in Pali of a Buddhist ritual, with bustrophedic writing in red lacquer on gold leaf brought from Madras by a Russian-Armenian archaeologist, who discovered it in a temple in 1830.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.