Vranov nad Dyjí castle was first mentioned by Cosmas of Prague in 1100 as a border sentry castle. It was built by the Dukes of Bohemia to defend the southern border of Moravia against raids from the neighbouring Austrian March. Until 1323 the castle was in royal hands but in that year king John of Bohemia pawned Vranov to a powerful Bohemian nobleman, the viceroy Jindřich of Lipá.
In 1421, during the disturbances of the Hussite Wars the Bohemian noble family of Lichtenburg took control of the castle and the contiguous market town. In 1499 it definitely passed on to Lichtenburgs as hereditary possession by the king Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary. The Lichtenburg family held Vranov for almost a century, until 1516.
In the 16th century, Vranov frequently changed the holders. Probably the most significant owners were lords from the Bavarian family of Althann, cousins of the Princes of Belmonte. Wolf Dietrich of Althann purchased the castle in 1614. Nevertheless seven years later the manor was confiscated due to his participation in the rebellion of the Bohemian Estates. The confiscated castle was consequently sold to one of the Albrecht of Valdštejn's generals, Johann Ernst of Scherfenberg.
Michael Johann II Althann recovered the Vranov estate for the family in 1680. He commissioned the famous Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to design a grand hall, known as ‘the Hall of the Ancestors’ in the Baroque style as a memorial to his Althann ancestors. It was built between 1687 and 1695. It’s an oval construction surmounted by an imposing cupola and became a dominant feature of Vranov. An Austrian sculptor, Tobias Kracker, created large statues of the ancestors in niches around the walls and another Austrian artist, Johann Michael Rottmayr, painted an allegorical glorification of the Althann family in the cupola. To complement the Hall of the Ancestors with a spiritual element, Fischer von Erlach designed a Baroque chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, which incorporated an Althann family vault. The richly decorated chapel was built in two years (1699 and 1670). After the death of Michael Johann II Althann more grand buildings were constructed, completing the transformation of the original castle complex into an up-to-date Baroque chateau.References:
The two-tiered Roman amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times. Built in 90 AD, the amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators, and was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting as well as plays and concerts in summer.
The building measures 136 m in length and 109 m wide, and features 120 arches. It has an oval arena surrounded by terraces, arcades on two levels (60 in all), bleachers, a system of galleries, drainage system in many corridors of access and staircases for a quick exit from the crowd. It was obviously inspired by the Colosseum in Rome (in 72-80), being built slightly later (in 90).
With the fall of the Empire in the 5th century, the amphitheatre became a shelter for the population and was transformed into a fortress with four towers (the southern tower is not restored). The structure encircled more than 200 houses, becoming a real town, with its public square built in the centre of the arena and two chapels, one in the centre of the building, and another one at the base of the west tower.
This new residential role continued until the late 18th century, and in 1825 through the initiative of the writer Prosper Mérimée, the change to national historical monument began. In 1826, expropriation began of the houses built within the building, which ended by 1830 when the first event was organized in the arena - a race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.
Arles Amphitheatre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with other Roman buildings of the city, as part of the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments group.