Château de Carrouges is unusual in its combination of an austere fortress with a comfortable residence. Originally a Celtinc oppidum, or defensive hill town, located at the southernmost border of the Norman duchy of William the Conqueror, Carrouges was vainly besieged by the Plantagenets in 1136. It was destroyed by the English in 1367, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Jean de Carrouges a vassal of Pierre II, Count of Alençon, became famous as one of the combatants in the last judicial duel to be permitted in France, in 1386. Following his victory, he was appointed a knight of honor to Charles VI.
The heiress of Jean de Carrouges married Guillaume Blosset, and their son Jean Blosset was appointed grand seneschal of Normandy. He made advantageous marriages with two wealthy heiresses from Brittany, first, Marguerite de Derval, and second, Francoise of Chastel. These alliances gave Blosset the means of restoring and expanding the château, which had suffered great damage following its confiscation by Henry VI of England after the battle of Verneuil in 1424. Blosset built the north-eastern wing of the château, in which King Louis XI lodged on 11 August 1473.
Blosset died withough heir, and the château passed to his nephew Jean Le Veneur, Bishop of Lisieux. He became a cardinal in 1533 and constructed the Renaissance châtelet, known as the pavillon du cardinal Jean Le Veneur. At the time of the French Wars of Religion (1562–98), the château was again strengthened, with the construction of the western bastion, but during the following century the sumptuous grand apartments were built. In the 17th century, Tanneguy II Le Veneur (d.1652), was dispatched to England to negotiate the marriage of Henrietta Maria of France, sister of Louis XIII, to the future King Charles I. Tanneguy II lived on his estates at Tillières and left Carrouges to his brother Jacques, abbot of Silly.
In 1637, Jacques Le Veneur resigned his abbacy to devote himself entirely to Carrouges. He decorated the chateau and the park, starting from plans and drawings prepared by Maurice Gabriel, an architect from Argentan.At the end of the 18th century, Alexis Le Veneur, vicomte de Tillières (1746–1833), a soldier and progressive, was one of the supporters of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was made a Count of the Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. In total, the château remained in the La Veneur family for five centuries, until 23 April 1936, on which date Marie Gaston Tanneguy IX, comte Le Veneur de Tillières, sold the château into state ownership. It has been classed as a monument historique since 1927, and is now in the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The Château de Carrouges is rectangular in plan, surrounded by a moat. The central courtyard opens on to a terrace to the south-west. Although elements survive from the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of the architecture is in the Henri IV and Louis XIII styles. The frontage is constructed of red brick and granite, the roofs are of blue slates. The château also has a keep of the 14th century, two storeys high and topped by machicolations.The 16th century châtelet, or gatehouse, comprises four circular turrets, and was probably built by Jean Le Veneur. It is constructed of red and black bricks.
The ground floor of the east wing contains the service areas, while the first floor contains the state apartments. The apartments are decorated in Renaissance and traditional styles. The 'Louis XI room' contains a bed with fabric imitating Hungarian point stitch. The chimney breast in the antichambre d'honneur is decorated with a hunting scene. The dining room is furnished with a grantite chimney piece, with Corinthian capitals. Furniture is of the Louis XIV and Restoration styles. The Salon des Portraits contains portraits of the lords and owners of Carrouges. The Grand Salon occupies one corner of the building, the straw-coloured woodwork dates from the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The main staircase, with its pink brick vaults, rests on four piles laid out in a square.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.