Chateaux of Berry

Château de Valençay

Château de Valençay is a residence of the d'Estampes and Talleyrand-Périgord families. Although geographically it is part of the province of Berry, its architecture invites comparison with the Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley, notably the Château de Chambord. The manor was praised as "one of the most beautiful on earth" by George Sand, who also noted that "no king has owned a more p ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Valençay, France

Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre

The existence of a fortification at the site of Mehun-sur-Yèvre dates from antiquity. The major remains are of the early 13th century and the later 14th century. The present standing ruins date from a castle founded under the Courtenays after 1209. This fortress was transformed into a princely residence by John, Duke of Berry in 1367. Largely ruined in the 18th century the castle represented an excellent example of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France

Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil

Built in 1300, Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil is surrounded by a moat of running water. Jacques Coeur bought the château in 1435 and Charles de Bigny (ancestor of the current owners) acquired in 1467. He built the main building in the late Gothic with Italian style. In the large living room, a fireplace, one of the most beautiful fireplaces of the Loire Valley, remains of the visit of King Louis XII and Queen Anne of Britt ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ainay-le-Vieil, France

Château de Meillant

The well-preserved Château de Meillant was built for Charles d’Amboise in 1510 by Italian craftsmen. It represents a fine composition of late Gothic and early Renaissance architecture. The château is dominated by the Lion’s Tower, an octagonal three-storey staircase tower. Other highlights of the visit include the château’s graceful chapel and its surrounding grounds. The plainer west ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Meillant, France

Château de Culan

The Château de Culan is a French medieval castle located in the commune of Culan. The castle, listed as a Monument historique at the start of the 20th century and classified for its walls and roofs in 1956, has known a turbulent history. It is built on a rocky outcrop dominating the River Arnon (a site naturel classé - classified natural site). The first wooden construction, of which nothing remains, was demolished in t ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Culan, France

Château de la Verrerie

The fine early Renaissance château is located on the edge of the Forêt d’Ivoy. The land was given to the Scot Sir John Stuart by Charles VII, in thanks for defeating the English at the battle of Baugé in 1421. However, the château was not built until the end of the 15th century, at which time Béraud Stuart, the grandson of John Stuart, returning from a campaign in Italy, constructed t ...
Founded: ca. 1500 | Location: Oizon, France

Château de Villegongis

The elegant and moated Château de Villegongis was probably built by Pierre Nepveu, one of the master masons for Chambord. Since the 15th century the ownership has stayed in the same family. Barely touched since that time, it is one of the purest examples of the French Renaissance style. The château’s most striking features are its richly decorated chimneys, which suggest the link with Chambord, and its cylindrical to ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Villegongis, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.