The Herten family, vassals of the Werden Abbey, was first documented in 1286. At that time, their residence was probably in the center of today's city next to St. Antonius church. In the 14th century, the family with 'Ritter' (knight) status built a fortified house on the site of today's castle. In 1376, this building was mentioned as fief of Werden Abbey. Through marriage, the Herten house fell into the possession of the von Galen family in mid-14th century. In 1488, it changed hands in the same manner to Dietrich von Stecke zur Leythe. Ultimately, in 1529 Anna von Stecke married Betram I. von Nesselrode. As part of the powerful house of Nesselrode, he was steward for the Electorate of Cologne in the Recklinghausen district and expedited the modification and extension of the buildings in 1530.
While foundations of today's main castle building incorporate elements from the 14th-century building, the buildings visible today were built by Stecke and Nesselrode families in the 16th and 17th century. The main castle consists of four wings creating an inner courtyard.
After the First World War, the main castle building was no longer used as a residence and started to deteriorate. Subsidence caused by the widespread sub-surface mining in the surrounding industrial Ruhr area added to the structural damage, bringing the castle buildings close to collapse. Only radical restoration measures from 1974 to 1989 saved the late Gothic castle complex from total decline. Today it is used as a venue for concerts, cultural events and festivities. It also houses a café. The castle's park is popular for walking, picknicking, jogging and biking.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.