The Ateni Sioni Church is an early 7th-century Georgian Orthodox church in the village of Ateni, some 10 km south of the city of Gori, Georgia. It stands in a setting of the Tana River valley known not only for its historical monuments but also for its picturesque landscapes and wine. The name 'Sioni' derives from Mount Zion at Jerusalem.
Sioni is an early example of a 'four-apse church with four niches' domed tetraconch (between the four apses are three-quarter cylindrical niches which are open to the central space). The church's cruciform interior measures 24m x 19.22m, and its façades are faced with carved rectangular greenish-gray stones, richly decorated with ornaments and figurative reliefs. The church is not dated but is very similar in design to the Jvari Monastery at Mtskheta, which is generally held to have preceded it, and, hence, has been described by some art historians as belonging to the 'Jvari-type' group of churches. Todosak, mentioned in an undated Armenian inscription on the southern facade as 'I, Todosak, the builder of this holy church' is considered to have been an Armenian architect of the original church or its late 10th-century renovator.
The walls of the church contain the earliest known inscriptions in Nuskhuri or Nuskha-Khutsuri, one of the versions of the early Georgian alphabet, dating from 835. The earliest known examples of Mkhedruli, a currently used Georgian script, are also found in the Ateni Sioni church and date to the 980s. One of the inscriptions on the church commemorates Adarnase I of Tao-Klarjeti, the first documented Georgian Bagratid nobleman who was the father of Ashot I, the founder of the new royal line of Georgia.
Near the church there are the ruins of the medieval fortified town of Ateni (modern-day villages of Didi Ateni and Patara Ateni).References:
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.