The Beloselsky-Belozersky palace belonged to the Princes Beloselskiy, a family who claimed descent from Yuri Dolgorukiy, the founder of Moscow. Their first palace was built on the same site by the Fontanka River in 1747, but it was a much more modest affair. The family's fortunes increased thanks to the close relationship between Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy and Emperor Paul I, and through marriage to two heiresses to Urals mining fortunes. It was one of those heiresses, the widowed Princess Elena Pavlovna Beloselskaya-Belozerskaya, who commissioned the present palace, petitioning Emperor Nicholas I to allow his court architect, Andrey Stackensneider, to design the building (his only civil commission in the city).
The palace was built 1847-1848, and became renowned for the lavish parties thrown there by Elena Pavlovna. A few decades later, however, the family found the palace too expensive to maintain, and it was sold to Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, brother of Emperor Alexander III, in 1884. He had part of the interiors redesigned in 1888, and in 1897 the facades were restored and first painted in the deep pink that can be seen today.
Nationalised after the October Revolution, the Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy Palace became the headquarters of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party for the centre of Leningrad. In this role, its historic interiors were carefully maintained during the 20th century, despite significant damage in the Second World War, and the original rococo decorations have largely survived intact. The building is now home to a Municipal Cultural Centre (along with several smaller institutions), and hosts regular concerts of chamber music as well as offering occasional guided tours of the state rooms (three or four times per month or by appointment).References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.