Vrontisi Monastery is a 14th-century Eastern Orthodox monastery situated between the villages of Zaros and Vorizia, on the south slopes of Mt. Ida. It has a panoramic view of the Mesara Plain and the Asterousia Mountains.
Venetian archives contain several documents referring to the Vrontisi monastery. The earliest written reference dates back to 1474. However, it is older than that but the exact year of its establishment is unknown. Vrontisi was established as a metochion of the nearby Varsamonerou Monastery. The former fell into decline after 1500 whereas Vrontisi began to flourish and reached its apogee as a regional monastic and spiritual centre during the 16th and 17th centuries. After the fall of Crete to the Turks, Arkadi Monastery was deserted and its monks fled to Vrontisi. According to tradition, Michael Damaskinos, the renowned painter of the Cretan School, is believed to have served as a monk at Vrontisi. Six of Damaskinos' best known icons were kept at the monastery until 1800 and are nowadays displayed at the St. Catherine of Sinai museum in Heraklion.
Owing to its fortified position, Vrontisi was used as a revolutionary centre during the Cretan uprisings of the 19th century. During the great Cretan revolt of 1866, Michael Korakas used Vrontisi as his headquarters. In reprisal, the Ottomans slaughtered the monks and burned all crops, which resulted in the monastery being deserted and most of its heirlooms destroyed. During the German occupation of 1941–44, Vrontisi provided shelter to resistance fighters.
Similarly to most monasteries built during the Venetian period, the monastery used to be heavily fortified and surrounded by thick walls. However, only parts of the west wall remain today. In the middle of the court stands a two-nave church (katholikon) dedicated to St. Anthony (Antonios) and St. Thomas. The church was painted with frescoes of which very few remain in the southern nave. An arched bell tower of Italian influence rises besides the church. At the main entrance of the monastery there is a marble fountain dating to the Venetian era, featuring Adam, Eve and four faces from which the water flows that symbolize the four rivers of the Garden of Eden. Due to this fountain, Ottoman Turks used to call Vrontisi Santrivanli Monastir, i.e. Fountain Monastery. According to the Italian architect Giuseppe Gerola, the fountain dates from the 15th century and was created by an artisan that could skilfully use the chisel, something that was uncommon in Crete at the time.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.