San Lorenzo was one of the twelve religious buildings commissioned by king Ferdinand III of Castile in the city after its conquest in the early 13th century.
The church occupies the site of a pre-existing Islamic mosque, which in turn had been built above a Visigothic church. It was built between around 1244 and 1300, in a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It has the typical structure of Andalusian churches of the period, featuring a rectangular plan with a nave and two aisles, without transept and an apse.
It has a portico with three slightly ogival arcades, added in the 16th century. The Islamic minaret was converted into a Renaissance bell tower by Hernán Ruiz the Younger. Above the portico is the large Gothic-Mudéjar rose window. The nave has a coffered ceiling in Mudéjar-Renaissance style. The apse has 14th century paintings inspired by the Italian Gothic school, depicting Scenes of the Life of Jesus. There are also figures of saints and prophets with gilt halos, and a decoration imitating Byzantine azulejos. the high altar (17th century) has scenes of the life of St. Lawrence.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.