The palace complex in Urach was built in the early 15th century as the home of Count Ludwig I von Württemberg, at a time when the county was divided. After reunification of Württemberg in 1482, the palace became a well-frequented residence and hunting lodge for the Dukes of Württemberg. Duke Carl Eugen (1728 – 1793) enjoyed staying in Urach, where he would host grand hunting expeditions.
The interiors of the palace bear witness to the preferences and pastimes of its residents, for example the Dürnitz (a type of large hall), the Palmensaal (hall of palms) and, in particular, the unique Goldener Saal. This is the only preserved Renaissance hall built for the Duchy of Württemberg, and one of Germany’s most spectacular Renaissance ballrooms. The Golden Hall was designed for the opulent wedding celebrations of Duke Eberhard im Bart to Italian princess Barbara Gonzaga of Mantua in 1474. It was lavishly decorated in the 17th century. Three Corinthian capitals support the flat ceiling. The room is flooded with natural light on three sides. Its walls and pillars are extensively gilded in gold.
An extraordinary highlight of the palace is the exhibition of sledges belonging to the Württemberg State Museum. Featuring 22 ornate Baroque sledges from the 17 th to 19 th centuries, it is the largest collection of its kind in the world. The sledges of the Dukes of Württemberg illustrate their need for public shows of grandeur and document the changing taste of the court.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.