The Lateran Palace is an ancient palace of the Roman Empire and later the main papal residence in southeast Rome. Located on St. John's Square in Lateran on the Caelian Hill, the edifice is adjacent to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome.
From the fourth century, the palace was the principal residence of the popes, and continued so for about a thousand years until the seat ultimately moved to the Vatican. The original palace was destroyed by fires in 1307 and 1361. Due to the damage the ancient building of the Lateran Palace was replaced with the same structure, which is the current Lateran Palace, during the papacy of Pope Sixtus V.
The Sancta Sanctorum chapel is the only building from the old Lateran palace that was not destroyed during its reconstruction. It was the original private chapel of the papacy before it moved to Avignon, and later to the Vatican palace. The chapel contains a wooden reliquary box, which supposedly houses the bones of at least 13 saints.
The palace is now used by the Vatican Historical Museum, which illustrates the history of the Papal States. The palace also houses the offices of the Vicariate of Rome, as well as the residential apartments of the Cardinal vicar, the pope's delegate for the daily administration of the diocese.
Until 1970, the palace was also home to the important collections of the Lateran Museum, now dispersed among other parts of the Vatican Museums.
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.