The Royal Château de Blois in the center of the city of Blois. The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans.
Built in the middle of the town that it effectively controlled, the château of Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to the 17th century around the main courtyard. It has 564 rooms and 75 staircases although only 23 were used frequently. There is a fireplace in each room. There are 100 bedrooms.
Beginning with Louis XII, who was born in Blois in 1462, the château became the favorite residence of the kings of France for more than a century. Blois was the first construction undertaken by François I and his successors often resided here. François II spent half of his brief reign at the château and Henri III twice summoned the Estates General of the kingdom here in an attempt to end the Wars of Religion (1576 and 1588) twice.
It was for this occasion that the château of Blois became the setting for the assassination of the Duke of Guise, ordered by the king on December 23, 1588.
The 16th century in Blois was also the century of the Queens: Anne de Bretagne, whose remarriage with Louis XII allowed the return of Brittany to France, followed by Claude of France, who gave her name to a variety of plums (« Reine Claude » that she cultivated in the gardens of Blois. After the brief reign of Mary Stuart, Catherine de Medicis often resided here before dying in her apartments. The memory of the two wives of Henri IV still lingers in Blois: Marguerite de Valois, the so-called "Reine Margot", and Marie de Médicis, who escaped from the château in 1619.
During the 17th century, the Château was a haven for princes and princesses in exil: Marie de Médicis, Gaston d’Orléans, Marie-Casimire de Pologne.
The château became a barracks just prior to the French Revolution. It was classified a national historical monument in 1840 and consequently renovated by Félix Duban, who restored its former splendour. The Château also became a cultural institution housing several museums.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.