The Pitsunda or Bichvinta Cathedral is a Georgian Orthodox Cathedral located in Pitsunda, in the Gagra district of the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, internationally recognised as constituting a part of Georgia. The cathedral is currently used by the Abkhazian Orthodox Church and serves as that body's seat, although this usage is disputed by the Republic of Georgia and is considered irregular by the Eastern Orthodox communion.
Pitsunda Cathedral was built at the end of the 10th century by King Bagrat III of Georgia. It served as the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Catholicate of Abkhazia until the late 16th century when Abkhazia came under the Ottoman hegemony. According to 17th century French traveller Jean Chardin, Catholicos, who no longer lived in Pitsunda, visited the cathedral once a year with the retinue of bishops and princes to perform the sanctification of chrism. The cathedral was reconsecrated in 1869 when Abkhazia was already a part of Russian Empire.
It is a cross-domed cathedral with three naves and three apses, shaped as a rectangle with extending semicircular apses. The cathedral is notable for its impressive size, reaching 29 m high (including the dome), 37 m long and 25 m wide; the walls are up to 1.5 m thick. The building rests on heavy slabs of grey sandstone; the walls are made up of alternating rows of stone and brickwork, a typical technique for late Byzantine architecture. The cathedral contains vestiges of wall-painting from the 13th and the 16th centuries. A 12th-century Georgian manuscript of the Four Gospels, found at the cathedral in 1830, is now preserved at the Georgian National Center of Manuscripts in Tbilisi.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.