Agde Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Stephen and stands on the bank of the Hérault River. The present building was constructed in the 12th century, beginning in 1173 under the direction of bishop William II of Agde, and replaced a Carolingian church of the 9th century that stood on the foundations of a 5th-century Roman church, formerly a temple of Diana.
The cathedral is remarkable for being built of black basalt from the nearby volcanic Mont St. Loup quarries. The building is extremely strong and was designed to serve as a fortress as much as a church: the walls are between 2 and 3 metres thick, and the square tower, 35 metres high, could also function as a keep, or donjon. The crenellations and machicolations are very prominent, and again, more characteristic of a fortress than of a church.
The Romanesque cloister which once adjoined the cathedral was demolished in 1857. Many of the materials, such as the capitals and the columns, were shortly afterwards reused for the construction of the lady chapel, which is now used as the entrance.
In the severe interior the 17th century high altar of polychromatic marble stands out all the more, as do the organs in Baroque style.
Of the cathedral's five bells, four are hung in the belltower, and were cast by Burdin-Aîné of Lyon in 1894 and 1895. The fifth is on top of the bellower and is used only for the chiming of the clock, cast in 1665 by Daniac Fulcrand at Béziers, and declared a monument historique in 1959.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.