The Church of St. Mary on Škriljinah is a Gothic church with a portico, a bell gable and a wooden tabulate added. In the church interior there is the Dance of Death scene, one of the most well-known series of frescoes and, along with the Arena in Pula and Euphrasian Basilica, the most recognizable cultural monument of Istria.
Frescoes were finished in 1474 by the workshop of Master Vincent from Kastav, of which there is a Latin inscription depicted on the south wall. Although Vincent was the main painter in the Church of St. Mary on Škriljanah, Beram frescoes were the work of several artists. He was helped by two other painters, of whom one is the author of the famous Dance of Death, and the other painted the image of St. Martin the horseman, who cuts a piece of his luxurious cloak giving it to a freezing, bare and poor passer-by in order to wrap himself in it.
The impressive Adoration of the Magi, the scene filling the entire upper part of the north wall, is the most valuable work by Vincent. The first scene the visitor sees upon his/her entrance is an unusual representation of a fool. When the eye becomes accustomed to the unlit interior after a few moments, the figures of saints pop out in the field framed by a wine of acathus leaves as in a puppet theatre. Scenes from the life of Mary and Christ are intertwined with the scenes of saints. The Dance of Death is most attractive for visitors on the west wall. One of the oldest preserved representations of this theme, the teaching representation of death in those times which treats us all equally and from which no one can escape, was painted after the epidemics of bubonic plaque.
Along with the dancing dead, the pope, the cardinal and the bishop, the king and the queen, a fat innkeeper, a child, a beggar and a soldier whose robust armour cannot help, and finally a trader who is not successful in bribing death with gold ducats move toward the open grave in a silent procession. The dancing skeletons move along the rhythm set by the death itself by playing the bagpipes.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.