Marmoutier Abbey, also known as the Marmoutiers, was an early monastery outside Tours. In its later days it followed the Benedictine order as an influential monastery with many dependencies. The abbey was founded by Saint Martin of Tours (316-397), circa 372, after he had been made Bishop of Tours in 371. Martin's biographer, Sulpicius Severus, affirms that Martin withdrew from the press of attention in the city to live in Marmoutier (Majus Monasterium), the monastery he founded several miles from Tours on the opposite shore of the Loire River.
In 853 the abbey was pillaged and destroyed by Normans, who killed over 100 monks. During the years shortly after 1000 AD, the abbey grew considerably, becoming one of the richest in Europe. In the wake of the Norman Conquest the abbey acquired patronage of churches in England. In 1096 Pope Urban II consecrated its new chapel, and preached the First Crusade. Pope Calixtus II preached crusade again in 1119, convincing Count Foulques V d'Anjou to take part and leading to his subsequent role as King of Jerusalem. In 1162 Pope Alexander III, who came to reside in Tours after being chased from Rome by Frederick Barbarossa, consecrated the monastery's new Chapel Saint Benoit.
The abbey eventually grew too small for its inhabitants, and was completely rebuilt at the start of the thirteenth century under the leadership of Abbot Hugues des Roches. In the following century its abbot Gérard du Puy became cardinal-nephew to the last of the Avignon popes, Gregory XI. In 1562 the abbey was again pillaged, this time by Huguenot Protestants at the start of the Wars of Religion. Again however it recovered.
The abbey was closed down in 1799 during the French Revolution, and within a few decades the bulk of its buildings had been demolished. Today its grounds contain a private school, and of its former structures only a few ruins remain.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.