The current edifice of Basilica of Sant'Abbondio rises over a pre-existing 5th century Palaeo-Christian church entitled to Sts. Peter and Paul, built by order of St. Amantius of Como, third bishop of the city. Erected c. 1 km outside the city's walls, it was intended to house several relics of the two saints which Amantius had brought from Rome.
The basilica acted as bishop's seat until 1007. Six years later bishop Alberic moved the seat within the walls. The basilica was then entrusted to the Benedictines who, between 1050 and 1095, rebuilt it in Romanesque style. The new edifice was dedicated to Amantius' successor, Abundius. The structures of the Palaeo-Christian church, discovered in 1863 during a restoration, are still marked by black and pale marble stones in the pavement.
The new basilica had a nave and four aisles. It was consecrated by pope Urban II on June 3, 1095.
The church has two notable bell towers rising at the end of the external aisles, in the middle of the nave. The sober façade, once preceded by a portico, has seven windows and a portal. Notable is the external decoration of the choir's windows. There are also Romanesque bas-reliefs and, in the apse, a notable cycle of mid-14th-century frescoes. Under the high altar are the Abundius' relics.
The medieval monastery annexed to the church, recently restored, will act as the seat of the local faculty of Jurisprudence.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.