Belaj castle was mentioned in 1367 as Bray in a document by Aquileia patriarch in which was given away for one year to the nobleman and vassal Dujam of St. Vito from Rijeka. After the Uskok War (1615–17) in which was devastated castel St. Martin (Posert), previous center of Belaj estate, Daniel Barbo in the vicinity built this castle as a new residence. It was in the possession of his descendants until 1668 when along Paz, Čepić, and Kožljak was sold toJohann Weikhard from Auersperg noble family. All this castles and estates Johann united in a single manor Wachsenstein (Kožljak), and the center from the medieval castle Kožljak by which was named, was transferred to Belaj. Johann heirs reconstructed the castle in the Baroque style to rustic castle in the end of 17th and 18th century. It was in their property until 1945 when the Yugoslav government nationalized it and given to the use of local agricultural cooperative.
Today the castle is a registered monument of cultural heritage, privately owned, partially renovated and very well preserved. The central residential part of the palace is of rectangular layout, 40 by 20 metres, with four-storey wings. On three sides of the inner courtyard is closed by semicircular arcades on the ground floor and first floor, while the north-west wing entrance closes with facade decorated with stone portal and shallow attic with a distaff and a bell from the 18th century when the wing was upgraded for one floor. The appearance of the castle before the intervention was preserved in the Valvasor drawing from 1679. The walls of the gallery on the first floor until recently were painted landscapes depicting the castle and its surroundings. Left and right of the residential palace in the same line are located farm buildings with basements, stables and barns, which are connected with the castle high surrounding walls. These are long and narrow single-storey buildings with gabled roof.
On the ground floor is the chapel of St. Henry II, with baroque marble altar and painted altarpiece, tombstones of family Barbo and tombstones of noble families from Kršan, Kožljak and Paz transmitted in Belaj from St. Mary on Čepić lake after the closure of the Paulistsmonastery in 1783.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.