The Rotonda di San Tomè has a circular plan and is in the Lombard-Romanesque style, dating from the early 12th century, and dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle.
The church was built in the district known in ancient times as Lemine. The date of its construction is uncertain, as well as the existence of other churches on the same site, as it is known a reconstruction was carried on between the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century. It has been speculated it could have been originated in Lombard times (7th-8th centuries), while other scholars assign it to the subsequent Frankishconquest of northern Italy, when the area was under the counts of Lecco.
It has been hypothesised that the Rotonda was built over the remains of a Roman temple, but archaeological investigations have found no sign of this. They have shown that a centrally planned edifice was present here in the 10th century.
This edifice had decayed in such a way that in the early 12th century the bishop of Bergamo decided on its complete reconstruction. Only the foundations and the columns and capitals of the former building were re-used for the ground floor. The columns were extended with reversed capitals at the base or by adding pieces of other columns. Around the end of the 12th century a presbytery and an apse were also built. In the meantime a monastery was added to the church, with nuns coming especially from the wealthy class of Bergamo. This monastery was suppressed in 1407; only the foundations and minor parts of the buildings can be seen today.
One of the most notable examples of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy, the rotunda has a central plan with a pyramidal composition, with three cylindrical volumes put one above the other. The second volume constitutes the matronaeum, a women's gallery, and has flat pilasters on its wall. The third volume is the lantern, To the rear of the Rotonda are the rectangular presbytery and semi-circular apse. The whole structure is lit by slit windows and small arched windows.
The interior has eight columns in a circle creating two concentric spaces. The wall enclosing them has niches marked by semi-columns with elegant capitals. Traces of frescoes can still be seen.
The upper matronaeum has also eight columns which creates a circular ambulatory facing the central hollow of the lower section. It has also a small apse with traces of frescoes. The capitals on both floors, and the portal, have well sculpted zoomorphic, human and geometric figuresReferences:
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.