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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.