Belœil château has been the residence of the Prince de Ligne since the 14th century. The château lies in the middle of a magnificent Baroque garden designed in 1664. The château and gardens can be visited during spring and summer.
Belœil became possession of the Ligne family in 1394. At the beginning of the 15th century the local castle was chosen as the principal residence of the family. The old castle was a fortified rectangular building with a moat surrounding it and had four round towers, one at each angle. This basic structure is still preserved, although the facades and interiors were greatly altered during the following centuries.
From 1664 onward the park, with its straight alleys, geometrical ponds and imposing perspectives was created. The typical bosquets - garden chambers enclosed by high hedges - were preserved in spite of the changing fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries when English landscape gardens were preferred. A small landscape garden with a 'ruin' was installed in the direct vicinity of the château by Charles Joseph, Prince de Ligne.
The fortified castle was adapted into a luxurious country house following the French example. The interiors were appointed with fine furniture and the art collections of the family. During the New Year's celebrations of 1900, disaster struck the castle when it burned down completely. Most of the furnishings, including the library of 20,000 rare volumes and the art collection, were saved. The castle was rebuilt in the following years by the French architect Ernest Sanson, while the interiors were redecorated using pieces from the Ligne collection.References:
The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily, including Ragusa, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality 'Ragusa Superiore' (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city 'Ragusa Inferiore' (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927.