Ajaccio, which is set at the top of a gulf, has been inhabited since Ancient times. From the 12th century onwards, the Genoese, wishing to establish a base of operations to support Calvi and Bonifacio in defending them against the threat from the Barbary Coast, built a fortification on the site, named Castel Lombardo.
Unfit for habitation, the position was abandoned three centuries later in 1492-1493 in favour of Capo di Bollo at Leccia Point. Cristoforo de Gandino, Francesco Sforza's military architect, was appointed by the Company of St. George to carry out the work for this site and at Calvi. Genoese and Ligurian families including the Bonapartes then set up a populating colony.
At that time, the town was structured around a fan formation of three roads: the Strada del Domo, the Strada San Carlo and the Strada Dritta, to plans drawn by the architect Pietro da Mortara. The citadel, which was built at the same time, was initially made up of a keep or citadel and a low curtain wall. In 1502-1503, the defensive features were enhanced with a ditch dug in rock around the citadel, accessible via a drawbridge, and strong walls around the settlement.
The town, which fell under French control between 1553 and 1559 was modified and extended, taking on its current hexagonal shape, the corners of which were reinforced with bastions. The Cateau-Cambrésis treaty returned the town to the Republic of Genoa, which commissioned the engineer Jacopo Frattini to fortify the seafront. He had a bastion built there, separated from the town by a ditch. During the 18th century, Corsica struggled in vain to escape foreign domination; in 1729, 1739 and 1763 the islanders attempted to take control of Ajaccio but it was placed directly under French control when the Genoese sold the island to France in 1768.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in this town, and biographers tell that the ramparts and the citadel fuelled his games and dreams before featuring in his military and political career.
Used as a prison during the Second World War, Ajaccio Citadel was to be the last destination of the heroic Resistance fighter Fred Scamaroni. Scamaroni, who created the Gaullist Corsican Action R2 network in 1941, was mandated by General de Gaulle in January 1943 to try to bring unity to the Resistance movement. Betrayed by his radio operator, he was arrested by the OVRA (Italian counter-espionage) during the night of 18-19 March 1943. He chose to cut his throat with a piece of wire, leaving a last message written in his own blood: 'Long live France and long live de Gaulle'.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.