Fontfroide is a former Cistercian monastery in France, situated 15 kilometers south-west of Narbonne. It was founded in 1093 by the Viscount of Narbonne, but remained poor and obscure until in 1144 it affiliated itself to the Cistercian reform movement. Shortly afterwards the Count of Barcelona gave it the land in Spain that was to form the great Catalan monastery of Poblet, of which Fontfroide counts as the mother house, and in 1157 the Viscountess Ermengard of Narbonne granted it a great quantity of land locally, thus securing its wealth and status. The abbey fought together with Pope Innocent III against the heretical doctrine of the Cathars who lived in the region.
The abbey was dissolved in 1791 in the course of the French Revolution. It was re-founded in 1858 by monks from Sénanque Abbey. The community was driven out of France by French legal changes in 1901. The premises, which are of very great architectural interest, passed into private hands in 1908, when the artists Gustave and Madeleine Fayet d'Andoque bought it to protect the fabric of the buildings from an American collector of sculpture. They restored it over a number of years and used it as a centre for artistic projects.
It still remains in private hands. Today wine is produced here under the French appellations system. It also has a small working farm, bookstore and restaurant and takes paying guests.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.