The Shirgj Church was built in 1290 by Helen of Anjou, queen consort of the Serbian Kingdom, wife of Serbian king Stefan Uroš I, and mother of kings Dragutin and Milutin. Apparently the monastery was constructed on top of an existing structure: according to apocryphal documents, the original monastery is mentioned as erected by Justinian, whereas in other sources its existence is mentioned as an abbey starting from 1100. The presence of a pillar of black granite, a material which originates from Syria and was often used in 6th-century basilicas in Albania, demonstrates that the construction of the original building may indeed lie in the 6th century.
A document dated 22 October 1330 mentions the monastery as the rendezvous point of the king of Rascia with ambassadors of Ragusa. In another document dated 1333, the monastery is mentioned as the customs' place of the kingdom of Rascia.
In the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja, it is alleged that several members of the Vojislavljević dynasty of Duklja were buried here, such as Mihailo I, Constantine Bodin, Dobroslav, Vladimir and Gradinja.
Marino Bizzi, the Archbishop of Antivari at the time, wrote in a 1611 report to the Vatican that heavy damages were inflicted to the church as a result of the Ottoman presence in Albania. In 1684, Pjetër Bogdani reported that the church's bell had been put underground. Daniele Farlati also mentioned the church in his Illyricum sacrum. In 1790 archbishop Frang Borci informed Coletti, Farlati's assistant, who was about to republish Illyricum sacrum, that the church was the most beautiful of Albania.
The French consul in Iskodra noted that the monastery's frescoes could still be seen in the church in 1905. At that time only three of the four perimeter walls were still standing. Ippen, then Austrian consul of Iskodra, observed that in the late 1800s and early 1900s the gravediggers of Shirgj would find old mosaics. At present, only a single wall remains and the mosaics can no longer be seen.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.