Built between the late 1200s and the early 1300s, the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano) was part of the medieval walls of Taormina. It is a masterpiece of Sicilian Romaneque and Gotic style, fitted with Arabic-Norman elements.
The building has a beautiful garden in front of its main facades, where there is still a well for the collection of rain-water which was the water supply for the whole palace.
The Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano is made up of three square overlapping sections. The entrance to the ground floor is an ogival arch constructed with squared bricks of black basalt (lavic stone) and white granite (Taormina stone). On the second floor there are four beautiful windows , two facing east and two facing north. The four mullioned windows have an elaborate structure with rosettes and small trilobe arches as well as triple cordons framing the ogival arches. On the top part of the palace a wide frieze runs along the east and north facades formed by a wavy decoration in lavic stone alternated with rhombus-shaped inlays in white Siracusa stone, together forming a magnificent lace of marquetry.
The palace was the residence of the spanish noble family De Spuches, dukes of Santo Stefano and Princes of Galati.
During the second world war it was damaged in large parts, yet it was completly restored in the 1960s after that the Municipality of Taormina bought it from Vincenzo De Spuches, a young descendant of the De Spuches family.
The Palace today houses the Fondazione G. Mazzullo. Many of the sculptures of Giuseppe Mazzullo are on show in the Palace.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.