Palazzo Biscari was built by will of the Paternò Castello family, the princes of Biscari, starting from the late 17th century, lasting for much of the following century, after the devastations of the 1693 earthquake. The new palace was built directly against the city walls (Charles V's walls), which had partially withstood the earthquake.
The oldest section was built under Ignazio, third prince of Biscari, who entrusted the project to architect Alonzo Di Benedetto. Ignazio's son, Vincenzo, commissioned the decoration of the seven large windows facing the seaside, by the Messinese sculptor Antonino Amato. Later the palace was modified under the fourth Prince, Ignazio Paternò Castello, who had it enlarged eastwards under design by Giuseppe Palazzotto and, later, by Francesco Battaglia. The building was finished in 1763 and inaugurated with big celebrations.
The palace is accessed through a large portal facing via Museo Biscari, leading to the inner courtyard, which features a large double staircase. In the interior is the 'Feasts Hall', in Roccoco style, with a complex decoration of mirrors, stuccoes and frescos painted by Matteo Desiderato and Sebastiano Lo Monaco. The small dome, destined to the orchestra, has a fresco depicting the glories of the Paternò Castello di Biscari family. It is accessed through a staircase decorated in stucco within the gallery facing the sea.
Among the other rooms are the Fief Room, featuring large canvasses of the Biscari feudataries, the Princess Apartments (built by Ignazio V of Biscari for his wife, with pavements of ancient Roman marbles), the Birds Gallery and the Don Quixote Room. There is also a museum, once housing the collection of Ignazio V, most of the material of which is now in the Castello Ursino in Catania.References:
The Château d'Olhain is probably the most famous castle of the Artois region. It is located in the middle of a lake which reflects its picturesque towers and curtain walls. It was also a major stronghold for the Artois in medieval times and testimony to the power of the Olhain family, first mentioned from the 12th century.
The existence of the castle was known early in the 13th century, but the present construction is largely the work of Jean de Nielles, who married Marie d’Olhain at the end of the 15th century.
The marriage of Alix Nielles to Jean de Berghes, Grand Veneur de France (master of hounds) to the King, meant the castle passed to this family, who kept it for more than 450 years. Once confiscated by Charles Quint, it suffered during the wars that ravaged the Artois. Besieged in 1641 by the French, it was partly demolished by the Spaniards in 1654, and finally blown-up and taken by the Dutch in 1710. Restored in 1830, it was abandoned after 1870, and sold by the last Prince of Berghes in 1900. There is also evidence that one of the castles occupants was related to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the person Alexandre Dumas based his Three Musketeers charictor d'Artagnan on.
During the World War I and World War II, the castle was requisitioned first by French troops, then Canadian and British soldiers. The current owner has restored the castle to its former glory.