Château de Durfort was erected on a rocky piton which overlooks the valley of the Orbieu. The present ruins are those of a strengthened habitat, including a chapel, dwellings with rectangular windows and a tower. High thick walls, cellars and wells, arched rooms of square buildings, corner turrets, watch towers and a main tower are still visible.
There is no documentary evidence for the initial construction of this fortress. The earliest written references mentioning the castle date from 1093.
After the Crusades against Cathars in the mid-13th century, the royal power confirmed its conquest of the region by building five large fortresses and a network of watch towers. The Château de Durfort was written into this defensive system, aimed at protecting the new frontiers of the Kingdom of France.
In 1659, Louis XIV signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees with the Kingdom of Spain. This treaty altered the borders, giving Roussillon to France. The frontier advanced to the crests of the Pyrenees and the various fortresses of the region lost their strategic importance. The Château de Durfort was, therefore, altered to make it more comfortable.
In the 18th century, the castle seems to have been abandoned but its isolated position served to preserve its ruins. Today, the castle is private property; it may be visited free of charge with prior authorisation from the owners. The building is not preserved or maintained; there is a risk of falling stones.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.