The early Renaissance Hartenfels castle dominates the town of Torgau. It is the residence of the Saxon electors and the political and administrative centre. The castle chapel was designed especially for Protestant worship services and was consecrated by Martin Luther himself.
The fortification already stood on the banks of the Elbe during the Slavic period. It was developed into a castle in the mid-10th century. In the late 15th century Hartenfels evolved, step by step, into an early modern castle.
In 1485, Torgau fell to the Ernestine Electorate of Saxony, the focus of whose reign increasingly shifted to Torgau. From 1525, a time in which the Reformation began to prevail, Torgau became the most important residence, and hence the political centre, of the land that devoted itself most vehemently to the doctrine of Martin Luther, establishing its state and manorial self-conception on this basis. The reformers and scholars of the University of Wittenberg often spent time here, assisting the elector and his counsellors in matters of theology and religious policy, but also in practical issues of church organisation. Luther alone is documented to have stayed in Torgau on roughly 60 occasions.
The castle was damaged on several occasions, particularly in the Thirty Years War, and has been restored several times since the 1990s. Most recently, in 2014, the large stone spiral staircase, the ‘Wendelstein’ was returned to its original colour scheme, and the magnificent gallery of coats of arms was restored. The former electoral chambers with a direct spatial and historical relationship to the castle chapel, are currently undergoing restoration. In early 2017, these rooms will be made accessible to the public as part of a permanent exhibition.
Hartenfels Castle consists of five unequal wings, four of them enclosing the large courtyard in the form of an irregular rectangle. The fifth wing, an addition dating to the 18th century, traverses the moat and extends towards the city. The high, for the most part three-storey buildings, in combination with eight towers, numerous gables and bay windows, lend the structure contours that are lively and yet monumental. Architectural highlights of the complex consist of the magnificent stone spiral staircase, the Große Wendelstein in the main wing, the ‘Beautiful Bay Window’ in the electors’ former living quarters, the castle chapel and the tower known at the Hausmannsturm. A representative gate from the late Renaissance provides access to the castle from the city. This is flanked by a slender bell tower.
The new castle chapel, a hall surrounded by two-storey lofts and located beneath a ribbed vault with net and star figures, was built as the first extravagant hall was constructed as the first sacral building destined exclusively for Protestant worship services. With it, the Saxon Elector John Frederick professed his commitment to the teachings of Luther and underscored his leadership role in the Protestant alliance. Luther consecrated the chapel himself in 1544, in an act of state of great political significance that was precisely planned by the elector. In keeping with the central role of preaching in Protestant worship services, the pulpit moved to the centre of the space, here at the northern long side, clearly visible from all sides.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.