Vrontisi Monastery is a 14th-century Eastern Orthodox monastery situated between the villages of Zaros and Vorizia, on the south slopes of Mt. Ida. It has a panoramic view of the Mesara Plain and the Asterousia Mountains.
Venetian archives contain several documents referring to the Vrontisi monastery. The earliest written reference dates back to 1474. However, it is older than that but the exact year of its establishment is unknown. Vrontisi was established as a metochion of the nearby Varsamonerou Monastery. The former fell into decline after 1500 whereas Vrontisi began to flourish and reached its apogee as a regional monastic and spiritual centre during the 16th and 17th centuries. After the fall of Crete to the Turks, Arkadi Monastery was deserted and its monks fled to Vrontisi. According to tradition, Michael Damaskinos, the renowned painter of the Cretan School, is believed to have served as a monk at Vrontisi. Six of Damaskinos' best known icons were kept at the monastery until 1800 and are nowadays displayed at the St. Catherine of Sinai museum in Heraklion.
Owing to its fortified position, Vrontisi was used as a revolutionary centre during the Cretan uprisings of the 19th century. During the great Cretan revolt of 1866, Michael Korakas used Vrontisi as his headquarters. In reprisal, the Ottomans slaughtered the monks and burned all crops, which resulted in the monastery being deserted and most of its heirlooms destroyed. During the German occupation of 1941–44, Vrontisi provided shelter to resistance fighters.
Similarly to most monasteries built during the Venetian period, the monastery used to be heavily fortified and surrounded by thick walls. However, only parts of the west wall remain today. In the middle of the court stands a two-nave church (katholikon) dedicated to St. Anthony (Antonios) and St. Thomas. The church was painted with frescoes of which very few remain in the southern nave. An arched bell tower of Italian influence rises besides the church. At the main entrance of the monastery there is a marble fountain dating to the Venetian era, featuring Adam, Eve and four faces from which the water flows that symbolize the four rivers of the Garden of Eden. Due to this fountain, Ottoman Turks used to call Vrontisi Santrivanli Monastir, i.e. Fountain Monastery. According to the Italian architect Giuseppe Gerola, the fountain dates from the 15th century and was created by an artisan that could skilfully use the chisel, something that was uncommon in Crete at the time.References:
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.