San Juan de Ortega Monastery was probably built by Saint John of Ortega himself, with the help of his friend and fellow saint, Domingo de la Calzada, around 1142 as a help point to the pilgrims who walked to Santiago de Compostela along the Way of Saint James. The monastery was originally staffed by a community of Augustinian canons.
The monastery belonged to the Order of Los Jerónimos from 1432 until the 1835, when the monastery was disbanded. During their tenure, the monks developed a pharmacy known throughout the area. In the sixteenth century, the hospice had room for sixteen beds. At one time a welcomed refuge for pilgrims, over time the area declined and the monastery was abandoned in the nineteenth century, with the local farmers using the church as a barn for hay.
The hamlet is very small and sparsely inhabited. With the increase in pilgrims along the Camino since the 1980s, the former monastery has undergone some gradual restoration. A portion of the premises has been fitted out as a albergue with fifty beds. The monastery has a café where pilgrims can rest and eat.
The church is an example of late Romanesque art, constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries. The oldest part of the church is the three twelfth century apses, built either by or under the direction of St John. Isabella I of Castile had Juan de Colonia, architect of Burgos Cathedral, add Gothic arches in the fifteenth century. She also financed construction of the Chapel of St Nicholas.
The illustrated capitals deserve special mention, as well as the tomb of the Saint, in the crypt. in Each year in March and September at 5 pm (solar time) on the equinox light penetrates through a small window placed in the main façade and a small beam of light illuminates the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, sculpted in stone in the top of a pillar.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.