The Abbey of Nivelles was a former Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire founded about 648-649 AD by the widow of Pepin of Landen, Itta of Metz, along with her daughter, Gertrude of Nivelles. The abbey began as a community of nuns; they were joined later by Irish monks from the Abbey of Mont Saint-Quentin, sent by Abbot Foillan to give support to the nuns. A group of the monks settled at Nivelles and it soon became a double monastery, led either by an abbot and abbess, later only by an abbess. At that point, the abbey came under the influence of Irish monasticism, with its heavy emphasis on a severe asceticism.
In the 9th century there began a process of secularization of the community which possibly ended in the 12th century. The abbey had close ties to the royal family, and played an important role in the social life of the palace. From the 12th century, the character of the community began to change to a more prestigious one, so that the members became canonesses regular who came from among the nobility, as attested in a document dated 1462. For most of the Middle Ages the Abbey remained an Imperial Abbey, a semi-sovereign institution directly under the king.
The abbey was suppressed after the invasion of the Duchy of Brabant in 1794 by the armies of the First French Republic.
The old abbey church, which became the Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude under the canonesses, was gutted by aerial bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe in May 1940 during the Battle of Belgium, but it was restored to its 11th and 13th centuries form after World War II. The site was excavated in 1941 and 1953.
Today the basement of the old abbey holds a number of artifacts and a rich archaeology and is open to the public. The adjoining Romanesque-Gothic cloister dates from the 13th century. A procession is held every year on the Sunday after Michaelmas.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.