In 1324, Infante Don Juan Manuel erected the contemporary Gothic-Mudejar convent, where he was subsequently buried, in what was once a fortress built by Alfonso X, the Wise. This emblematic monument was declared a Heritage of Cultural Interest in 1931 and can currently be visited on a free or guided tour.
This Heritage of Cultural Interest boasts a façade with exuberant brick arches, made in the Gothic-Mudejar style, which contrast radically with the luxurious decoration of the funerary chapel of the Manuel family, which was built two centuries later in the Plateresque style.
The chapel’s centrepiece is a window with Gothic tracery framed by two pilasters and an arch. Two coats of arms representing the chapel owners flank the window. One rests above a semicircular tower, which corresponds inside with a spiral staircase without a centre post. This staircase leads up to a balcony.
Don Juan Manuel de Villena’s funerary chapel, built in a Plateresque style with Gothic reminiscences, is a stunning example of Spanish Renaissance art. It was built in very white limestone, worked meticulously and has been preserved in a very good state. It is one of Peñafiel’s star attractions for lovers of cultural tourism.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.