Known as Castelasc in Lombard local language, the Castle of Cuasso is one of the most important defensive buildings in the province of Varese and Insubria. Founded in medieval times, it stands upon a hill which gives name to the whole city of Cuasso al Monte. Nowadays only ruins remain of the ancient structure.
Due to the lack of written sources, the history of the castle is still, in some respects, mysterious. The few studies and on-site digs have found out that it was built close to an ancient road that connected Milan to the alpine passages of San Bernardino Pass and Gotthard Pass. Its building on top of a gorge made the fortress impossible to seize. Its closeness to the river Cavallizza, which flows through an area rich in silver, lead and gold, could also suggest that it played a preeminent role in controlling the managing of the mineral wealth of the region.
The castle was built in many different stages. The most ancient tower, which dates back to Roman times, was enlarged during the Lombard age. Some believe that it was built by a Saxon workforce. Paul the Deacon, in his book Historia Langobardorum, records about 20,000 Saxons, who followed king Alboin in spring 568. The Saxons descended from the same ancestors, as both people had lived in Roman Germany during the first century A.D, in the area around the river Elbe. In 734 a part of 20,000 Arimannia left Italy, as they strongly disagreed with the Lombards' power. So, the Castle was surely a military defense of the road that connected Como and the Gotthard: in fact, before the bridge of Melide was built, the main road ran through it.
Later it was part of the Seprio's County, and it was permanently abandoned in the 13th century. Until the mid 16th century the castle of Cuasso housed the local parish; then, during the following centuries, it was used as a cemetery. Finally, the castle was brought back to its function of observation tower when the Cadorna Line was built.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.