Historic Centre of Oporto

The city of Oporto, built along the hillsides overlooking the mouth of the Douro river, is an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000- year history. Its continuous growth, linked to the sea (the Romans gave it the name Portus, or port), can be seen in the many and varied monuments, from the cathedral with its Romanesque choir, to the neoclassical Stock Exchange and the typically Portuguese Manueline-style Church of Santa Clara.

The historic centre of is a townscape of high aesthetic value, with evidence of urban development from the Roman, medieval, and Almadas periods. The rich and varied civil architecture of the historic centre expresses the cultural values of succeeding periods – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and modern. The active social and institutional tissue of the town ensures its survival as a living historic centre. Military, commercial, agricultural, and demographic interests converged here to shelter a population capable of building the city. It is a collective work, not accomplished at a particular moment but the result of successive contributions. One of the most relevant aspects of Oporto is its scenic character, resulting from the complexity of the landform, the harmonious articulation of its roads, and the dialogue with the river. It also represents a successful interaction between the social and geographical environments.

Since 1996 it is a Unesce site.

Thanks to Paula for the postcard.

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Historic Centre of SighiลŸoara

Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, SighiลŸoara is a fine example of a small, fortified medieval town which played an important strategic and commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for several centuries.

The city, which lies in the heart of Transylvania, developed on a plateau, and is dominated by a hill overlooking a bend in the river Tirnava. In the 13th century, German craftsmen and merchants were ordered by the Hungarian sovereigns to colonize Transylvania and protect the border of the Carpathians against the steppe peoples. They settled on a hill, called the City Hill, which has revealed traces of occupation going back to the Palaeolithic period. Following incursions by the Tatars in 1241, the fortified settlement was reinforced with walls, guarded by towers, later extended to surround the entire plateau. The town, known in 1280 as Castrum Sex, developed commercial activities thanks to the powerful guilds of craftsmen. Each guild was responsible for the construction of a tower and its defence. The importance of the town was recognized in 1367 when it obtained the title ‘Civitas’ and became the second national political entity of Transylvania. Under pressure from the Turks between 1421 and 1526, the city heightened its walls.

Since 1999 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Veronica for the postcard.

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Medieval City of Rhodes

The Order of St John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and set about transforming the city into a stronghold. It subsequently came under Turkish and Italian rule. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban ensembles of the Gothic period. In the Lower Town, Gothic architecture coexists with mosques, public baths and other buildings dating from the Ottoman period.

The medieval city is located within a wall 4ย km long. It is divided according to the Western classical style, with the high town to the north and the lower town south-south-west. Originally separated from the town by a fortified wall, the high townย was entirely built by the Knights Hospitallers who, following the dissolution of the Templars in 1312, became the strongest military order in all Christendom. The order was organized into seven ‘Tongues’, each having its own seat. The inns of the Tongues of Italy, France, Spain and Provence lined both sides of the principal east-west axis, the famous Street of the Knights, one of the finest testimonies to Gothic urbanism. Somewhat removed to the north, close to the site of the Knights’ first hospice, stands the Inn of Auvergne, whose facade bears the arms of Guy de Blanchefort, Grand Master from 1512 to 1513.

After 1523, most were converted into Islamic mosques. Throughout the years, the number of palaces and charitable foundations multiplied in the south-south-east area: the Court of Commerce, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Hospice of St Catherine, and others. The ramparts of the medieval city, partially erected on the foundations of the Byzantine enclosure, were constantly maintained and remodeled between the 14th and 16th centuries under the Grand Masters Giovanni Battista degli Orsini (1467-76), Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1505), Aimรฉry d’Amboise (1505-12), and Fabrizio del Carretto (1513-21). Artillery firing posts were the final features to be added. At the beginning of the 16th century, in the section of the Amboise Gate, which was built on the north-western angle in 1512, the curtain wall was 12ย m thick with a 4ย m high parapet pierced with gun holes.

Since 1988 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Martina, Giada, Laura and Alessia for the postcard.

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Thanks to Silvia for the postcard.

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Collegiate Church, Castle and Old Town of Quedlinburg

Quedlinburg, in the Land of Sachsen-Anhalt, was a capital of the East Franconian German Empire at the time of the Saxonian-Ottonian ruling dynasty. It has been a prosperous trading town since the Middle Ages. The number and high quality of the timber-framed buildings make Quedlinburg an exceptional example of a medieval European town. The Collegiate Church of St Servatius is one of the masterpieces of Romanesque architecture.

The importance of Quedlinburg rests on three main elements: the preservation of the medieval street pattern; the wealth of urban vernacular buildings, especially timber-framed houses of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the important Romanesque collegiate church of St Servatius. The original urban layout is remarkably well preserved: it is a classic example of the growth of European medieval towns. The history of the medieval and early modern town is perfectly illustrated by the street pattern of the present-day town.

Since 1994 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Katrin for the postcard.

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Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye

The Church of the Ascension was built in 1532 on the imperial estate of Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, to celebrate the birth of the prince who was to become Tsar Ivan IV (‘the Terrible’). One of the earliest examples of a traditional wooden tent-roofed church on a stone and brick substructure, it had a great influence on the development of Russian ecclesiastical architecture.

It was consecrated with great pomp on 3 September 1532 by the Metropolitan Dionissi, the Bishops of Kolomenskoye and Zaraisk, and the whole of the synod in the presence of Grand Prince Vasili, Grand Princess Yelena, Tsarevich Ioann and the brothers of the tsar.

Since 1994 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Yulia for the postcard.

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Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region

Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Built mainly between the 7th and 19th centuries, it has the oldest Slav monastery (St Pantelejmon) and more than 800 Byzantine-style icons dating from the 11th to the end of the 14th century. After those of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, this is considered to be the most important collection of icons in the world.

Writing, education and Slavonic culture – all spread out from Ohrid in the 7th to 19th centuries. It is a cultural centre of great importance for the history not only of this part of the Balkan Peninsula, but also for all nations of the Slavonic tongue and for world history and literature, with precious manuscripts and other rarities. This city and its historic-cultural region are located in a natural setting of exceptional beauty, while its architecture represents the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of the Slavic lands.

Since 1979 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Anita for the postcard.

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La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia

Built between 1482 and 1533, this group of buildings was originally used for trading in silkย and it has always been a centre for commerce. It is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The grandiose Sala de Contrataciรณn (Contract or Trading Hall), in particular, illustrates the power and wealth of a major Mediterranean mercantile city in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Its original function was as a trading exchange for oil. It developed into the main maritime trading centre and the silk exchange, and housed the commercial institution known as the “Consolat de Mar,” which was founded in 1283, and the Taula de Convis i Deposits, a banking institution established in 1408 and named after the table (taula) over which its transactions took place. At the present time it is still a major trading exchange, now dealing primarily in agricultural products.

Since 1996 it is a Unesco site.

Thanks to Giuan for the postcard.

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