The New Castle of Ansembourg is one of the castles belonging to the Valley of the Seven Castles. In 1639, industrialist Thomas Bidart built the central part of today's castle as a comfortable house surrounded by walls and towers, two of which still stand. Originally from Liège in Belgium, Bidart, who was a pioneer of Luxembourg's iron and steel industry, named the building Maison des Forges (House of the Ironworks). During the Thirty Years' War, he tapped the region's many water sources and exploited its timber and iron, manufacturing arms at a foundry close to the old castle. As a result, his family prospered, earning rights to the title of Lords of Amsembourg which had belonged to the Raville family until 1671.
It was the de Marchant family who, after inheriting the property by marriage, undertook its astonishing transformation into today's modern-looking castle. In 1719, the courtyard was extended with two wings on either side of the original building. The southern gable was enhanced with a magnificent arch where four statues represent the four continents. Fitted with two small towers, the new façade overlooked the gardens which were connected to the castle through an arcade. The first-floor balcony above the porch provided an excellent view of the gardens, complete with flowerbeds and a fountain. Between 1740 and 1750, Lambert Joseph de Marchant et d'Ansembourg further improved the gardens and extended the buildings on the north side of the main courtyard so that they could be used as stables and lodgings for the castle staff. In 1759, Count Lambert Joseph added the impressive Baroque gateway bearing the arms of de Marchant of Ansembourg and Velbruck.
Since 1987, the castle has belonged to Sûkyô Mahikari who has undertaken substantial renovation work with the assistance of Luxembourg's Service des Sites et Monuments nationaux. Initially work was centred on reinforcing the foundations and walls and on restoring the staircase of honour on the upper terrace in the gardens. From 1999, the statues and the fountains in the garden were repaired while the roofs over the two wings and the central section were rebuilt. Work is now concentrated on restoring the oldest part of the building which dates from the 17th century.
The castle gardens are open to visitors from 9 am every day. The castle also hosts a number of cultural events during the year.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.