Mortemer Abbey was originally built in 1134 on land gifted to the Cistercians by Henry I of England. The stagnant water of the drainage lake, dug out by the monks to dry up the marshy land around the quick running Fouillebroc stream, was called 'dead mere', 'dead pond' - in modern French 'morte mare' - and gave the monastery its name.
The monks constructed what was then one of the largest Cistercian monastery in the world. Over the centuries, the abbey fell into decline and disrepair. It was rebuilt in the 17th Century, but the decline was irreversible and by 1790, when it was dissolved in the course of the French Revolution, only five monks remained.
The 12th century buildings were already more or less derelict by the time of the French Revolution, and subsequent use as a convenient source of cut stone for local construction reduced them to little more than a ruin. Apart from the cloisters, which are relatively intact, there remains only a shell.
The 17th century buildings by contrast are well preserved and open to visitors, with guided tours available most of the year. The abbey site also has a well-maintained 17th century dovecote, which was also used as a gaol house in the 18th and 19th centuries.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.