The Château d'Ussé stronghold at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre Valley was first fortified in the 11th century by the Norman seigneur of Ussé, Gueldin de Saumur, who surrounded the fort with a palisade on a high terrace. The site passed to the Comte de Blois, who rebuilt in stone.
In the 15th century, the ruined castle of Ussé was purchased by Jean V de Bueil, a captain-general of Charles VII who became seigneur of Ussé in 1431 and began rebuilding it in the 1440s; his son Antoine de Bueil married in 1462 Jeanne de Valois, the natural daughter of Charles VII and Agnès Sorel, who brought as dowry 40000 golden écus. Antoine was heavily in debt and in 1455, sold the château to Jacques d’Espinay, son of a chamberlain to the Duke of Brittany and himself chamberlain to the king; Espinay built the chapel, completed by his son Charles in 1612, in which the Flamboyant Gothic style is mixed with new Renaissance motifs, and began the process of rebuilding the 15th-century château that resulted in the 16th-17th century aspect of the structure to be seen today.
In the seventeenth century Louis I de Valentinay, comptroller of the royal household, demolished the north range of buildings in order to open the interior court to the spectacular view over the parterre terrace, to a design ascribed to André Le Nôtre. Valentinay's son-in-law was the military engineer Vauban, who visited Ussé on numerous occasions. Later Ussé passed to the Rohan. In 1802 Ussé was purchased by the duc de Duras; as early as March 1813, low-key meetings were held at Ussé among a group of Bourbon loyalists, who met to sound out the possibilities of a Bourbon Restoration: such men as Trémouille, duc de Fitzjames, the prince de Polignac, Ferrand, Montmorency and the duc de Rochefoucault attended. Here later François-René de Chateaubriand worked on his Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe as the guest of duchesse Claire de Duras.
In 1885 the comtesse de la Rochejaquelein bequeathed Ussé to her great-nephew, the comte de Blacas. Today the château belongs to his descendent. Famed for its picturesque aspect, Ussé was the subject of a French railroad poster issued by the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans in the 1920s and was one of several that inspired Walt Disney in the creation of many of the Disney Castles.References:
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.