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 Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.