On 23rd April 1289 the Landmeister (provincial Master) of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, Meinhard von Querfurt, attacked the lands of the Skalvians. Afterwards he ordered to construct a Teutonic fortress which was to replace an old Prussian fort called 'Ragaine'. The new stronghold was named 'Landehut', meaning 'the land's guarding fort' or 'the land's defence'.
At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, the Teutonic Knights were involved in exhausting battles with Lithuania over Skalovia. At that time the former name of the fort, 'Ragnit', was revived. Ragnit Castle became the most part of the defence system built by the Teutonic Knights in the borderland between Prussia and Lithuania, and also one of the major links in a chain of fortresses protecting the Monastic State of the Order.
Despite being a powerful stronghold, Ragnit Castle sometimes fell into the hands of enemy. In 1397-1409 the Teutonic Knights built a new brick and stone castle in Ragneta. The works were supervised by the Master of the Teutonic Order, Konrad Fellenstein of Marienburg.
A huge stone and brick fortress was raised, surrounded with a moat and an embankment, which formed an enclosed square. The size of the inner ward was about 1.000 square meters. The main entrance, decorated with a granite doorframe, was located in the west wing. The entrance could be closed securely with an iron grate. Some time later a watchtower, about 25 meters high, was raised near the castle.
In November 1678 Ragenta Castle was seized by the Swedish troops, who stayed in the castle for about a year until Grand Master Frederic Wilhelm arrived with reinforcements and forced the occupants to leave the castle. Once the Swedish troops had withdrawn, the castle underwent necessary repairs.
During the Napoleonic wars, French troops stationed in the castle. In December 1812 Russians entered the town, lead by General Alexander Kutuzov, a relative of an outstanding Russian army commander, Michail Illarionovich Kutuzov.
In the 1930s, the historic fortress of Ragnit lost its defensive character. The castle was reconstructed to function as a seat of a law court and a prison.Today we can admire the ruins of the castle, including its watchtower, which still stand in the centre of the town, on the Neman River. Unfortunately, the devastation and unsanitary appearance of what has been left of the fortress are a sad reminder of our indifferent attitude to the past. A few years ago, when some filmmakers were looking for a location to shoot war scenes, the ruined fortress was rediscovered. Some effort was even made to preserve the ruins. All in vain, God's Eye has turned away from the town's dwellers and does not watch over the castle or the town. So it is the residents of Ragnit who should assume the responsibility for their historic heritage.References:
The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.
The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.
In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.
During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.