Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was the most authoritative and wealthy monastery in Russia in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was founded in 1479 by Joseph Volotsky. Over the next several decades, the monastery played a key role in the political and ecclesiastic life of the 16th-century Russia. It was also a stronghold of struggle against the opponents of church landownership and heretics. Its vaults were used as a prison for dissenters. Joseph Volotsky, Metropolitan Daniel, Archbishop Feodosii, and Malyuta Skuratov are among many notables buried within monastery walls.
In the 1560s, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was the second largest landowner in Russia, with more than 30,000 desyatinas of arable lands in its possession. Several smaller priories, dependent on the monastery, were founded on these lands. Within the principal cloister, three ponds were kept full of fresh water. After the Assumption Cathedral was constructed in brick in 1486, the great icon-painter Dionisius was summoned to embellish its walls with frescoes. An enormous octagonal bell-tower was constructed in 9 tiers in the 1490s. At that time, it was the tallest structure in Russia. Its design heralded that of Ivan the Great Bell Tower in the Moscow Kremlin.
During the Time of Troubles, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was actively engaged in helping the government of Basil IV in his struggle against Ivan Bolotnikov's rebels. The Polish hetman Prince Rozynski lost his life besieging the monastery in 1611. After the siege, the monks captured a lot of Polish cannons, which were later used for festive fire works.
At the end of the 17th century, the monastery was reconstructed in the fashionable Naryshkin style. The new walls, completed by 1688, featured nine sharp-coned towers of stone. A golden-domed church was built over the main gates to the monastery in 1679. A church of similar design was added in 1682 to the spacious refectory, currently the oldest building in the complex, dating from 1504. The new Assumption Cathedral replaced the old one between 1682 and 1689. Its exterior was elaborately decorated with coloured tiles, and a marvellously carved iconostasis was installed in the interior.
After the October Revolution of 1917, Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery was turned into a museum. The Soviet authorities destroyed all the bells and took most of the icons to Moscow. During World War II, the Nazi army seriously damaged the cloister and blew up its famous bell-tower. Although the churches have been subsequently restored, the bell-tower remains a major loss sustained by Russian art during the war.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.