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:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.