The Pinacoteca di Brera is the main public gallery for paintings in Milan. It contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings. The convent on the site passed to the Jesuits (1572), then underwent a radical rebuilding by Francesco Maria Richini (1627–28). When the Jesuits were disbanded in 1773, the palazzo remained the seat of the astronomical Observatory and the Braidense National Library founded by the Jesuits.
In 1774 were added the herbarium of the new botanical garden. The buildings were extended to designs by Giuseppe Piermarini, who was appointed professor in the Academy when it was formally founded in 1776, with Giuseppe Parini as dean. Piermarini taught at the Academy for 20 years, while he was controller of the city's urbanistic projects, like the public gardens (1787–1788) and piazza Fontana, (1780—1782).
For the better teaching of architecture, sculpture and the other arts, the Academy initiated by Parini was provided with a collection of casts after the Antique, an essential for inculcating a refined Neoclassicism in the students. Under Parini's successors, the abate Carlo Bianconi (1778–1802) and artist Giuseppe Bossi (1802–1807), the Academy acquired the first paintings of its pinacoteca during the reassignment of works of Italian art that characterized the Napoleonic era. Raphael's Sposalizio (the Marriage of the Virgin) was the key painting of the early collection, and the Academy increased its cultural scope by taking on associates across the First French Empire: David, Pietro Benvenuti, Vincenzo Camuccini, Canova, Thorvaldsen and the archaeologist Ennio Quirino Visconti. In 1805, under Bossi's direction, the series of annual exhibitions was initiated with a system of prizes, a counterpart of the Paris Salons, which served to identify Milan as the cultural capital for contemporary painting in Italy through the 19th century. The Academy's artistic committee, the Commissione di Ornato exercised a controlling influence on public monuments, a precursor of today's Sopraintendenze delle Belle Arti.
The Romantic era witnessed the triumph of academic history painting, guided at the Academy by Francesco Hayez, and the introduction of the landscape as an acceptable academic genre, inspired by Massimo D'Azeglio and Giuseppe Bisi, while the Academy moved towards becoming an institution for teaching the history of art. Thus in 1882 the Paintings Gallery was separated from the Academy.
From 1891 the exhibitions were reduced to triennial events, and architectural projects developed their autonomous course. During the period of the avant-garde when Modernism was becoming established, the director of the Academy Camillo Boito had as pupil Luca Beltrami, and Cesare Tallone taught Carlo Carrà and Achille Funi.
The Brera Observatory hosted the astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli for four decades, and the Orto Botanico di Brera is a historic botanical garden located behind the Pinacoteca.
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.