The Château de Saissac is a ruined castle, one of the so-called Cathar castles. It was once the residence of the powerful vassal family of Trencavel.
The castle dominates the rocky headland and the ravine of Vernassonne, at an important strategic position at the entry of the Montagne noire. Based on historical texts, it can be dated to at least 960. It was bequeathed by the bishop of Toulouse to the Count of Carcassonne. In the 11th century, the castle was pledged to powerful vassals in the country. They formed a junior branch under the counts of Foix who formed at the time the lineage of Saissac. It is important all the same to note the presence of a castrum under the current caste, probably dating from the 11th century, though its origin can date to the time of the Visigoths.
At the time of the Albigensian Crusade in 1229, the lord of Saissac, Bertrand de Saissac, himself a Cathar, was the tutor of Raymond Roger de Trencavel. They were subjugated and stripped of their titles. Bouchard de Marly ordered the seizing of the castle and its goods; it was only later, after 1234, that the castle was restored by Lambert de Thursey, another companion of Montfort.
At the end of the 13th century, the castle became the inheritance of the family of Lévis, new lords of Mirepoix. From 1331 to 1412, it passed to the family of Isle-Jourdain. In the 15th century, the barony was held by the family of Caraman. The castle changed hands repeatedly until 1565, passing through the hands of Bernuy, a rich man, and house of Clermont-Lodève.
In 1568 and 1580, the Protestant troops destroyed the village but were unable to enter the impregnable fortress.
After the French Revolution, the castle quickly fell in ruins, after repeatedly being looted by treasure hunters in 1862 lured by the castle's romantic aspect.
From 1995, the castle has been in the possession of the municipality, which began a programme of restoration in order to make the castle available to visitors. As of 2007, two rooms of the main building (the Aldonce residence, constructed in the 16th century) have been rebuilt in the 16th century style, together with the framework resembling the hull of a ship. Many locked cellars under the keep have now been made accessible.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.