Baranów Sandomierski Castle is one of the most important Mannerist structures in the country. The castle is commonly known as the 'little Wawel'. Originally a residency of the Lubomirski family, it now serves as a historical museum, hotel and conference centre.
The castle was built around the years 1591–1606 in the style of Poland's Mannerism with richly decorated attics, side towers and arcade courtyard for Andrzej and Rafał Leszczyński (1526–1592) of the Wieniawa coat of arms. It is believed to be the work of a famous Italian architect, Santi Gucci, the court artist of king Stephen Báthory. In about 1620 the castle was surrounded by bastion fortifications and in 1625 its chambers were adorned with early Baroque decorations executed by the eminent stucco decorator Giovanni Battista Falconi.
By the end of the 17th century, the castle came into the possession of the Lubomirski family through marriage. Prince Józef Karol Lubomirski wedded its owner, Princess Teofila Ludwika Zasławska in 1683, and rebuilt her principal residence by way of commissioning the royal Dutch-Polish architect Tylman van Gameren (Tylman Gamerski) from the court of Jan III Sobieski, who converted the castle, added the western wing gallery and embellished the interiors with profuse late-baroque stucco decorations. The gallery housed their collection of art. Notably, almost two centuries later, all works of art were destroyed in massive fires, first in 1848 (with the entire library) under Krasicki family and finally in 1898 under Dolańskis.
Castle in Baranów Sandomierski passed successively into the possession of families: Wiśniowiecki, Sanguszko, Lubomirski, Małachowski, Potocki and Krasicki. In 1867 it was acquired by Feliks Dolański. The structure was restored by subsequent owner Stanisław Dolański after a fire in 1898. Under the direction of Kraków architect Tadeusz Stryjeński some changes were carried out in the layout. During this reconstruction one of the chambers on the ground floor was adopted as chapel and decorated in art nouveau style. Stained-glass windows by Józef Mehoffer and an altar with a painting of Jacek Malczewski Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception were major features of the interior. The castle remained in the possession of the Dolański family till the outbreak of World War II. Due to war damages the castle was renovated by the State in the years 1959–1969.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.