The Château de Saumur, originally built as a castle and later developed as a château was originally constructed in the 10th century by Theobald I, Count of Blois, as a fortified stronghold against Norman predations. It overlooks the confluence of the Loire and the Thouet. In 1026 it came into the hands of Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, who bequeathed it to his Plantagenet heirs. Following its destruction in 1067, the castle was rebuilt by Henry II of England in the later 12th century.
In the early part of the 13th century, Philip II of France made Saumur part of his royal domain. The page for September in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry depicts the Chateau as it looked in 1410. It changed hands several times until 1589 when the Protestant King Henri IV (of France and Navarre) gave the castle to Duplessis-Mornay.
In 1621 the castle was converted into an army barracks. Nearly two centuries later it was converted into a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte. In the first part of the 20th century, the city of Saumur acquired the castle and began a restoration program to house the museum of the decorative arts. In line with the Saumur area's equestrian tradition and its famous "Cadre Noir", the castle also serves as a Museum of the Horse. The castle has a dungeon and watchtower, and houses the Musée de la Figurine-Jouet, a collection of very old toys and figurines of soldiers, kings of France, and clowns.
The Château de Saumur has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862. As of 2008, there are a total of 46 buildings and structures in Saumur which are designated a Monument Historique - see the French national database Mérimée. Most of the monuments are built in the lovely soft local stone known as tuffeau. Amongst the most important monuments are the great Château de Saumur itself which stands high overlooking the town, and the nearby Château de Beaulieu which stands just 200 metres from the south bank of the Loire river; designed by the renowned architect Jean Drapeau, it is recognised for its light and elegant architecture. Amongst the other Monuments Historiques are the church of Saint-Pierre in the Place St Pierre in the centre of Saumur, and the Château de Briacé which is located on the north side of the river.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.