The Botanic Gardens of Belfast opened in 1828 as the private Royal Belfast Botanical Gardens. It continued as a private park for many years, only opening to members of the public on Sundays prior to 1895. Then it became a public park in 1895 when the Belfast Corporation bought the gardens from the Belfast Botanical and Horticultural Society.
Occupying 28 acres (110,000 m2) of south Belfast, the gardens are popular with office workers, students and tourists. The gardens' most notable feature is the Palm House conservatory. It was completed in 1840. It is one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouses in the world. The Palm House consists of two wings, the cool wing and the tropical wing. Lanyon altered his original plans to increase the height of the latter wing's dome, allowing for much taller plants. In the past these have included an 11 metre tall globe spear lily. The lily, which is native to Australia, finally bloomed in 2005 after a 23-year wait. The Palm House also features a 400-year-old Xanthorrhoea.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).