The Palazzo Ducale di Mantova ('Ducal Palace') is a group of buildings in Mantua, built between the 14th and the 17th century mainly by the noble family of Gonzaga as their royal residence in the capital of their Duchy. The buildings are connected by corridors and galleries and are enriched by inner courts and wide gardens. The complex includes some 500 rooms and occupies an area of c. 34,000 m². Although most famous for Mantegna's frescos in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room), they have many other very significant architectural and painted elements.
The Gonzaga family lived in the palace from 1328 to 1707, when the dynasty died out. The oldest structures, those located on Piazza Sordello square, were built between the 13th century and the 14th century by the Bonacorsi family, who dominated Mantua before being ruled out by the Gonzagas in 1328.
In the late 14th century, an imposing fortress, the Castle of Saint George, was built near the city’s lakefront. The castle was designed by military architect Bartolino da Novara as a defensive structure aimed at protecting the heart of the town, and subsequently converted into the main residence of the Gonzaga family.
In 1556, Guglielmo Gonzaga took the decision to merge those buildings into a single, grandiose architectural complex. Therefore, a number of late Renaissance-style courtyards, gardens, passages, porticoes, and new wings were built in the second half of the 16th century after designs by some of the most renowned architects and artists of the time, including Giulio Romano, Giovan Battista Bertani, and Antonio Maria Viani.
Subsequently, the buildings saw a sharp decline, which was halted in the 20th century with a continuing process of restoration and the designation of the area as museum. In 1998, a hidden room was discovered by Palace scholars. The room is thought to have been used for performances of Monteverdi's music in the late 16th century.
The Château d'Olhain is probably the most famous castle of the Artois region. It is located in the middle of a lake which reflects its picturesque towers and curtain walls. It was also a major stronghold for the Artois in medieval times and testimony to the power of the Olhain family, first mentioned from the 12th century.
The existence of the castle was known early in the 13th century, but the present construction is largely the work of Jean de Nielles, who married Marie d’Olhain at the end of the 15th century.
The marriage of Alix Nielles to Jean de Berghes, Grand Veneur de France (master of hounds) to the King, meant the castle passed to this family, who kept it for more than 450 years. Once confiscated by Charles Quint, it suffered during the wars that ravaged the Artois. Besieged in 1641 by the French, it was partly demolished by the Spaniards in 1654, and finally blown-up and taken by the Dutch in 1710. Restored in 1830, it was abandoned after 1870, and sold by the last Prince of Berghes in 1900. There is also evidence that one of the castles occupants was related to Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, the person Alexandre Dumas based his Three Musketeers charictor d'Artagnan on.
During the World War I and World War II, the castle was requisitioned first by French troops, then Canadian and British soldiers. The current owner has restored the castle to its former glory.