Le Thoronet Abbey, sited between the towns of Draguignan and Brignoles, is one of the best examples of the spirit of the Cistercian order. Even the acoustics of the church imposed a certain discipline upon the monks; because of the stone walls, which created a long echo, the monks were forced to sing slowly and perfectly together.
The monks move from Floriéges to Le Thoronet around 1176 and founded a new monastery to the lands donated to Cistercians few decades earlier. The entire monastery was built at once, which helps explain its unusual architectural unity. The church was probably built first, at the end of the 12th century, followed by the rest of the monastery in the early 13th century.
In the 13th century, there were no more than twenty-five monks in the monastery, but money came in from donations, and the Abbey owned extensive lands between upper Provence and the Mediterranean coast. The most important industry for the monastery was raising cattle and sheep.
By the 14th century, the monastery was in decline. In 1328, the Abbot accused his own monks of trying to rob the local villagers, being only a few years after the Great Famine. In 1348, Provence was devastated again, this time by the Black Plague which further reduced the population. By 1433, there were only four monks living at Le Thoronet.
By the 16th century, while the abbey church was maintained, the other buildings were largely in ruins. The monastery was probably abandoned for a time during the Wars of Religion.
In the 18th century, the abbot decided the order's rules were too strict, and added decorative features, such as statues, a fountain. and an avenue of chestnut trees. The Abbey was deeply in debt, and in 1785, the abbot, who lived in Bourges, declared bankruptcy. Le Thoronet was deconsecrated in 1785, and the seven remaining monks moved to other churches or monasteries. The building was to be sold in 1791, but the state officials in charge of the sale declared that the church, cemetery, fountain and row of chestnut trees were 'treasures of art and architecture', which should remain 'the Property of the Nation.' The rest of the monastery buildings and lands were sold.
In 1840, the ruined buildings came to the attention of Prosper Merimée, a writer and the first official inspector of monuments. It was entered onto the first list of French Monuments historiques, and restoration of the church and bell tower began in 1841. In 1854 the state bought the cloister, chapter-house, courtyard and dormitory, and in 1938, bought the remaining parts of the monastery still in private ownership.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.