The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa) origins on this site date to prehistory. The great Greek Temple of Athena was built in the 5th century BC. The temple was a Doric edifice with six columns on the short sides and 14 on the long sides. Plato and Athenaeus mention the temple, and the looting of its ornament is mentioned by Cicero, in 70 BC, as one of the crimes of the governor Verres.
The present cathedral was constructed by Saint Bishop Zosimo of Syracuse in the 7th century. The battered Doric columns of the original temple were incorporated in the walls of the current church. They can be seen inside and out. The building was converted into a mosque in 878, then converted back when Norman Roger I of Sicily retook the city in 1085. The roof of the nave is of Norman origin, as well as the mosaics in the apses.
As part of the increased building activity after the 1693 Sicily earthquake, the cathedral was rebuilt and the façade redesigned by architect Andrea Palma in 1725–1753. The style is classified as High Sicilian Baroque, a relatively late example. The double order of Corinthian columns on the facade provide a classic example of carved Acanthus leaves in the capitals. Sculptor Ignazio Marabitti contributed the full-length statues on the facade.
The interior of the church, a nave and two aisles, combine rustic walls and Baroque details. Features include a font with marble basin dating from the 12th or 13th century, a ciborium (an altar canopy) designed by architect Luigi Vanvitelli, and a statue of the Madonna della Neve by Antonello Gagini (1512).
The cathedral of Syracuse is included in a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2005.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.