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:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.