The Cathedral of Ávila has Romanesque and Gothic architectural traditions. It was planned as a cathedral-fortress, its apse being one of the turrets of the city walls. It is surrounded by a number of houses or palaces.
It is not known exactly when the construction of the Cathedral began, there being two theories. One states that Alvar García started its construction in 1091 inside the remains of the Church of the Saviour, which was in ruins as a result of successive Muslim attacks, and that Alfonso VI of Castile raised the money necessary to build it. Other historians believe the Cathedral to be the work of the maestro Fruchel in the 12th century coinciding with the repopulation of Castille led by Raymond of Burgundy.
Of the 13th century are the first stages of the towers and aisles and of the 14th century the second stage of the towers, the cloister, the vaults and the flying buttresses. Already in the 15th century the cathedral was complete and in 1475 Juan Guas built the mechanical clock.
The Cathedral of Ávila is considered by its age (12th century), along with the Cathedral of Cuenca, as the first two Gothic cathedrals in Spain. It shows French influences and great resemblances to the Abbey Church of St Denis, the first European Gothic church.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.