Château d'Harcourt is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The home of the Harcourt family, the castle is one of the best preserved castles in the country and contains the oldest arboretum in France. Although the lords of Harcourt trace their origins to the year 1000, the first written record of the castle dates from the second half of 12th century. Robert II d"Harcourt was a companion in the crusade of Richard Lionheart; the first stone castle was certainly built by him.
Harcourts appear later among the most important barons of Normandy. Jean II d"Harcourt, for example, was named Marshal of France and accommodated in his residence king Philip III. In 1338, king Philip VI, set up the seigniory of Harcourt, with the Château d"Harcourt forming its principal town. The fortress appears to have seldom been under siege through history. It is only at the time of the Hundred Years" War that Harcourt became a military base. In 1418, the castle was claimed by the English, but they were eventually expelled by the counts of Dunois, Eu and Saint-Pol in 1449. As the war came to a close, the domain returned to the Rieux family, then, starting from the second half of the 16th century, to the powerful Lorraine-Guise family.
The French Wars of Religion caused an increase in defensive fortifications in the castle. In 1588, the members of a league occupied the castle. In the 17th century, the castle lost all military interest; it was then partially abandoned after Louis Gervais Delamarre acquired it in 1802. With his death, Harcourt was bestowed to the Royal Academy of Agriculture of France. Today it is owned by the council general of Eure.
It is thought that the Château d"Harcourt consisted in the beginning of a motte-and-bailey surrounded by a ditch, like many of the other fortresses of the time. In the 12th century, a square stone tower took the place of earlier wooden constructions. The castillar architecture then evolved according to the progression of sieges, and the rise of its successive owners. In the 13th century the old keep was integrated in a polygonal castle. The bailey was protected by a curtain wall punctuated by nine round towers. Ahead of the curtain wall, a deep ditch, dry most of the time (lacking a river to feed it), girdled the structure.
Through the 14th century, the defence of the castle continued to improve. A monumental fortified door, a châtelet, was installed to defend the more exposed of the two entries. The archeries were enlarged to allow firing crossbows.In the 17th century, Marie Françoise de Brancas (d.1715), wife of Alphonse Henri, Count of Harcourt, undertook to refit the medieval fortress to make it more hospitable. A friend of Madame de Maintenon, she demolished three sides of the polygonal castle and thus opened her apartments to the light. With a similar aim, large rectangular bays were bored and the interior disposition was re-examined.The medieval Château d"Harcourt appears truncated today, especially as the top of the keep was levelled to bring it to the same height as the other buildings. There is no longer any building in the bailey, though a chapel was probably there formerly.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.