Ornate Window, Hisham's Palace

Ornate Window, Hisham's Palace

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Palace of Versailles facts – interesting trivia about Versailles

Palace of Versailles is one of the best Royal residences in the world.

It is also known as Chateau de Versailles and is 20 Kms (12 Miles) southwest of Paris.

In 1682, Louis XIV decided to move his residence from Louvre Palace to the Palace of Versailles. The same year it also became the official residence of the court of France.

Palace of Versailles remained the French Kings’ home until the French revolution killed the King, Queen and imprisoned their kids.

When it was fully operational, around 5000 people, including aristocrats, courtiers, and servants, lived in the palace.

After the French revolution, the palace was largely ignored, and it fell into disrepair.

Today, it is a well-preserved World Heritage site visited by more than 10 million tourists every year.

Planning a visit to Versailles? Find out the best way to reach Palace of Versailles.

The Palace of the Inquisition

The Parque de Bolivar located in the historic El Centro neighbourhood of Cartagena, is one of the ancient city’s most popular relaxation spots. Here in the leafy shade offered by the palm trees, and surrounded by cooling water fountains and tropical birds, Cartageneros meet to waste away the afternoon, playing chess and sipping coffee from the street vending tintos.

It’s also home to some of the city’s most beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture, one of the prettiest examples of which takes up the southern side of the square. Built in 1770, it features a grandiose entrance built in the Baroque style, long wooden balconies covered with pink bougainvillea, and an ornate cast iron fence. The stone entrance gives way to a lush courtyard filled with palm trees, detailed tile work and bright yellow plaster walls. But this 18th century palatial mansion hides a dark secret, a clue to which is to be found on the side wall around the corner to the main entrance a small window with a simple crucifix above it bears the legend, “Ventana de la Denuncia.” Here in this tranquil setting, heretics would be denounced and led inside to meet their fate. For this beautiful building was the torture palace of the Spanish Inquisition.

Under the innocent sounding name of the Court of the Holy Office, the Spanish Inquisition carried out its gruesome work until independence from Spain was won in 1812. Walking into the courtyard, the first building encountered was the secret prison called the House of Dungeons. Here, denounced heretics would await their judgement. Torture was used not as a punishment itself for heresy but to obtain a confession which the Inquisitors believed was necessary to bring the heretic back to faith. The Inquisition’s principal purpose was to defend and protect deemed threats to the Catholic Church, including blasphemy, witchcraft, and heresy. Once a confession was signed, the victim was sentenced to death in a public auto-da-fé in the courtyard outside.

Today the palace is open as a museum, wherein many of the grisly tools used to extract confessions are on display. The principal method of torture was the strappado, where the victim was tied with their hands behind their back and suspended in the air whilst a series of weights and drops were added. The other infamous torture method was the rack. Often just watching another victim being stretched on the rack was all it took to obtain a confession. The museum also features other such disturbing relics as thumb screws, the head crusher, and an iron collar covered in lethal spikes.

One of the largest groups targeted by the Inquisition in Cartagena were supposed witches. However the persecution of witches amounted to little more than the vilification of women through trials where victory for the accused was impossible. A notice on the wall of the museum lists the questions the accused faced, amongst them, “What evils have you caused and to whom?” “What words do you pronounce when you fly?” and “Why does the devil cause you blows at night?” In the over 800 trials which took place at the Palacio de la Inquisición, not a single person was ever found innocent. Walking through the museum, past the infamous witches’ ducking stool, and into the leafy courtyard beyond, you can see the Inquisitor’s guillotine still standing.

Whilst the last official victim put to death by the Inquisition was in 1834, the organization actually still exists today as part of the Catholic Church. Ready to root out heretics, it is known as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A visit to the museum in Cartagena is a darkly disturbing one. The square outside, with its statue of Simon Bolivar, the leader of Colombia’s independence from Spain, and the building itself, are some of the ancient city’s most beautiful spots, but inside, dark artifacts from a disturbing chapter in the history of Cartagena await.

No. 2: The Louvre, Paris

The Louvre, Paris. (iStockphoto) Tourists snap photos of Leonardo da Vinci's "La Gioconda" (Mona Lisa). (© Horacio Villalobos/epa/Corbis) Louvre museum and pyramid at night. (© Scott Stulberg/Corbis) School children admire the "Diana of Versailles" in the Louvre's Galerie des Caryatides. (© Philippe Lissac/Godong/Corbis) Interior of the Louvre Museum. (© Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis) The Louvre palace and architect I. M. Pei's glass pyramid. (© Arnaud Chicurel/Hemis/Corbis)

Annual Visitors: 9,334,0000 (Source: Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency)

The largest and most famous museum in the world—displaying masterpieces like La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa) and the Winged Victory of Samothrace—got its start as a palace. The U-shaped Louvre housed generations of French kings and emperors beginning in the 12th century, and the remnants of the original fortress that occupied the site (built for King Philippe II in 1190) can be seen in the basement of the museum. The building was extended and renovated many times. Head to the decorative arts wing for a glimpse of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie's opulent state apartments, built between 1854 and 1861.

Early history

Westminster Hall is the oldest building in Parliament and almost the only part of the ancient Palace of Westminster which survives in almost its original form.

Built to impress

The Hall was built in 1097 under William II (Rufus), the son of William the Conqueror, and was completed two years later. He had conceived the project to impress his new subjects with his power and the majesty of his authority.

According to one story, when the King first inspected the Hall, one of his attendants remarked that it was much larger than needed. The King replied that the Hall was not half large enough, and that it was a mere bedchamber when compared to what he had in mind.

Largest in Europe

But the Hall was indeed by far the largest hall in England, and probably in Europe at that time. Measuring 73 by 20 metres (240 by 67 feet), it had a floor area covering 1,547 square metres (about 17,000 square feet), with a length of almost four cricket pitches end-to-end.

Indeed, the Hall was so large that other halls were needed at Westminster for normal use, and the royal household usually ate in a smaller hall nearby.

The Hall's early features

The great mystery about the Hall is the form of its original roof. Not until the 13th or 14th century could carpenters create roofs significantly wider than the length of the available timber, and so it was assumed that a single or double row of columns was needed to support the Hall's roof.

However, recent archaeological explorations found no evidence of these, and that the roof may have been self-supporting from the beginning.

Stone walls

The Hall was enclosed with stone walls fully two metres, or six feet thick these largely remain today, though heightened and refaced.

Inside the Hall was an arcade with large arches and windows and a wall passage around all four sides. Above the windows was a chequer-work pattern of light and dark stones.

The inside walls were plastered and painted, and decorative hangings were draped from the arcade.

Royal Residences: A brief history of Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is located in the town of Windsor in Berkshire, England. The site occupies 13 acres of land and features a fortification, a palace and a small town. It is perhaps most recognisable by the castle’s Round Tower.

When was it built, and when was it used as a royal residence?

The original castle was built during the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William Conqueror. It is the longest-occupied palace in Europe – having been lived in by the reigning monarch since the time of Henry I. As it was designed as a fortress to protect Norman dominance and was built as a motte-and-bailey castle.

Several monarchs have made additions to Windsor Castle, such as King Henry III who built a grand royal palace in the middle of the castle. King Edward III went further and expanded the palace into a set of luxurious buildings. The castle was next remodelled during the reign of King Charles II who had ornate Baroque interiors designed which remain to this day.

The castle was largely neglected until the reigns of King George III and King George IV. During the 18 th century, the palace which had been designed by King Charles II was entirely renovated at huge expense to their current state.

Who has lived there?

Every monarch has lived in or used Windsor Castle at some stage since King Henry I (1068-1135). It is believed one of the biggest draws was the space for shooting and other sports, such as wrestling – a favourite of a young Henry VIII. Whilst some kings, such as George I and George II took very little interest in Windsor, some, such as the latter’s successor George III, were enamoured with the castle and made great advances to it.

If ghost stories are to be believed, it seems that King George III has not left the castle. An officer explained that one day the guards were passing the late king’s window on their duties and the commanding officer saw his distinctive figure standing in his usual place, watching the parade. Instinctively he gave the order “Eyes right,” and as they swung round each soldier saw the figure and watched as the late king returned their salute.

Queen Victoria had a great love for Windsor Castle, despite some reservations in her early reign when she described it as “dull and tiresome”. Her beloved husband, Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in the Blue Room on December 14, 1861. The Queen then went into a deep period of mourning and kept the castle in the same state for several years, so much so that she became known as the Widow of Windsor.

When George V came to the throne, he continued the castle’s modernisation started by his father Edward VII. Due to anti-German feeling during the First World War, the last name of the Royal Family was changed by the King in 1917 from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor due to its undeniably British connection.

During World War Two, the castle was the home of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, who both made their inaugural radio broadcast wishing the evacuated children a good night from the castle. Throughout the war, the windows were blacked out, the chandeliers were lowered, the ceilings were strengthened, and the Crown Jewels were hidden in a biscuit tin in the basement.

Which key events have happened here?

Windsor has been the site of hundreds of royal events, from the births of monarchs such as Edward III and Henry VI to the weddings of most of Queen Victoria’s children, as well as the modern-day weddings of the present Queen’s grandchildren, such as Prince Harry, Peter Phillips and Princess Eugenie. Several monarchs have died at the castle, including George III, George IV, William IV but many more are buried there in the royal tombs, including King Henry VIII.

Other notable events to occur at Windsor Castle are King Edward VIII’s abdication speech on December 11, 1936, and the damaging fire on November 20, 1992.

Who is it used by today?

The castle is part of the Occupied Royal Palaces Estate and is owned by the monarch by right of the Crown.

Windsor is well-known to be a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth as she spends many of her weekends there. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Her Majesty has stayed in Windsor, rather than return to London. She has carried out appointments and meetings with dignitaries and officials digitally from Windsor.

There are a handful of times the queen has been seen this year at Windsor, first in June for the altered Trooping the Colour ceremony, twice in July to knight Captain Sir Tom Moore and for her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice’s wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and finally alongside her family members in December.

The appearance of the ‘New Firm’ – as they have become known – saw the Queen standing outside at a social distance alongside the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess Royal. It is thought that the eight senior royals will play a pivotal role in the future of the monarchy when carrying out official duties.

Rome archaeologists have discovered remains of the lavish home and gardens of Emperor Caligula under an office building in the Esquilino area of the city, reports The Times.

The discovery of artefacts and traces of the luxuriously-decorated palace and ornate gardens follows a three-year dig under a 19th-century office block belonging to doctors&rsquo pension institute Enpam in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

The excavation was overseen by Rome's soprintendenza for cultural heritage and the discoveries are set to go on public display, according to Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero.

Archaeologists uncovered traces of a garden complex with water fountains and bones belonging to exotic animals.

"We have found bones from the foot of a lion, the tooth of a bear, and bones of ostriches and deer" - Dr Mirella Serlorenzi of Italy's culture ministry told The Times - "We can imagine animals running free in this enchanted landscape, but also wild animals that were used for the private circus games of the emperor."

The interiors were covered in rich frescoes and complex polychrome marble decorations, according to The Times, while other discoveries include jewels, coins, seeds of imported exotic plants and a metal brooch belonging to an imperial guard.

Archaeologists describe the site as a "complex archaeological stratification" with gardens laid out on various levels, linked by a white marble staircase whose remains were also unearthed.

The property was bequeathed to the estate of the emperor by the wealthy senator and consul Lucius Aelius Lamia when Caligula became the third leader of the Roman Empire in 37 AD at the age of 24.

In the 16th century there were also significant discoveries at the site, according to Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, with some of the finds now part of the collection of the Capitoline Museums.

Caligula - known for his sadistic, depraved and tyrannical lifestyle - was murdered in 41 AD and was succeeded by Emperor Claudius.

1892 Bishop’s Palace

G alveston’s grandest and best-known building, the Bishop’s Palace is an ornate delight of colored stone, intricately carved ornaments, rare woods, stained-glass windows, bronze dragons and other sculptures, luxury materials and furnishings, and impressive fireplaces from around the world (including one lined with pure silver!).

Built by lawyer Colonel Walter Gresham and designed by Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier architect, this Victorian castle was cited by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 100 most important buildings in America. The home was built from 1886 to 1892.

If you can only visit one of Galveston’s architectural treasures, the exquisite Bishop’s Palace is the one to see.


  • Monday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM



  • Also Known as The Gresham House
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • One of the Most Significant Victorian Residents in the Country
  • Special Events Scheduled Throughout the Year
  • Located Minutes from The Strand Historic District

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The house was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine, with whom he had nine children. An attorney and entrepreneur, Gresham came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War. He was a founder of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad, eventually working to bring about the merger of the Santa Fe with the Atchison and Topeka Railroad. He also served in the Texas Legislature.

Nicholas Clayton designed the house. The small lot and oversized house make it an anomaly among similar houses of its period and architectural style. It is Victorian however, it is more specifically described as Chateausque given the intricate combination of materials, cast iron galleries and complex roof system. Chateausque is a derivative of the French Revival popularized in the latter part of the 19th century by Richard Morris Hunt. Nicholas Clayton, however, expanded on the style by using varicolored and irregularly shaped stone, round Romanesque and depressed Tudor arches with heavily articulated carvings of vegetation, animals, people, and imaginary creatures. Constructed of steel and stone (it survived the Great Storm of 1900 virtually unscathed), the Bishop’s Palace soars three stories over a raised basement level, with steep roofs and long sculptural chimneys. Typical of Clayton, he used a combination of simple geometric forms in bold massing to create an additional dramatic effect. In Galveston’s great period of mansion building – the 1870s, 80s and 90s – Gresham’s commission of Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier architect, resulted in Clayton’s most spectacular residential design and arguably the finest of the “Broadway beauties.”

The interior spaces of this museum property are grand with exotic materials such as a pair of Sienna marble columns flanking the entrance hall. The first floor rooms have fourteen foot ceilings that are coved and coffered. An octagonal mahogany stairwell is forty feet tall with stained glass on five sides. The stair is lit by a large octagonal skylight. A massive fireplace in the front parlor is made of Santo Domingo mahogany. The house includes abundant stained glass, wood carvings, and decorative plaster ceilings and walls.

Catherine Palace

The Catherine Palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband's death. Originally a modest two-storey building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717, the Catherine Palace owes its awesome grandeur to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who chose Tsarskoe Selo as her chief summer residence. Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.

The resultant palace, completed in 1756, is nearly 1km in circumference, with elaborately decorated blue-and-white facades featuring gilded atlantes, caryatids and pilasters designed by German sculptor Johann Franz Dunker, who also worked with Rastrelli on the palace's original interiors. In Elizabeth's reign it took over 100kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was deplored by Catherine the Great when she discovered the state and private funds that had been lavished on the building.

The interiors of the Catherine Palace are no less spectacular. The so-called Golden Enfilade of state rooms, designed by Rastrelli, is particularly renowned and forms the focus of the palace tour. Guests enter via the State Staircase which, although it blends effortlessly with the rococo grandeur of Rastrelli's interiors, in fact dates from the 1860s. With its ornate banisters and reclining marble cupids, it gives a taste of what is to come. The Great Hall, also known as the Hall of Light, measures nearly 1,000 square meters, and occupies the full width of the palace so that there are superb views on either side. The large arched windows provide enough light to relieve the vast quantity of gilded stucco decorating the walls, and the entire ceiling is covered by a monumental fresco entitled The Triumph of Russia. Using similar techniques but on a smaller scale, the White Dining Room is equally luxurious but, like many of the rooms in the palace, its grandeur is softened by the presence of a beautiful traditional blue-and-white tiled stove in the corner.

Other highlights of the Grand Enfilade include the Portrait Hall, which contains remarkably good portraits of both Catherine and Elizabeth, the Picture Gallery, in which almost every inch of wall space is covered with paneling comprising 17 th and 18 th century canvases and, of course, the legendary Amber Room.

To create this extraordinary chamber, Rastrelli used the panels of amber mosaic originally destined for an Amber Cabinet at Konigsberg Castle and presented to Peter the Great by Friedrich-Wilhelm I of Prussia, and surrounded them with gilded carving, mirrors, more amber panels created by Florentine and Russian craftsman (comprising a total of 450kg of amber), and further mosaics of Ural and Caucasus gemstones. The room was completed in 1770. Due to the fragility of the materials used, a caretaker was employed constantly to maintain and repair the decorations, and major restoration was undertaken three times in the 19 th century. The room was used to house a substantial collection of amber-work and Chinese porcelain. In 1941, when German troops took Tsarskoe Selo, the Amber Room was dismantled in 36 hours, and shipped to Konigsberg in a tawdry pretence at historical fidelity. As the Nazi war machine crumbled, the panels were crated up and moved out of danger, but their eventual fate is unknown.

In 1982, the order was given to begin the recreation of the Amber Room, a process that took over 20 years and cost more than $12 million. Opened in 2003 by President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the restored Amber Room is a truly unique monument, and a testament to the painstaking care of the craftsmen who worked on it.


Zedekiah’s Cave

Solomon’s underground quarry

In the Old City of Jerusalem, East of the Damascus Gate, Zedekiah’s Cave lies quietly hidden. The caves stretch back over 1000 feet and appear to have been around for over 2000 years. It is believed to have been a quarry, but the cave also has a tragic story to accompany it. Zedekiah, the last biblical King of Jerusalem, was under siege and attempted to escape through the caves. Instead, he was dragged in front of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King then had his sons murdered in front of Zedekiah, and plucked out his eyes. This is documented in 2 Kings 25:1-6 of the Bible. To accompany this miserable tale, there is a spring in the cave, aptly named Zedekiah’s tears.

Sebastia | © Mafoso/WikiCommons

Ruins at Sebastia

Ruins of Samaritan palaces and Byzantine churches

In the stunning region of Nablus, the ruins of Sebastia are just waiting to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. The site features the ruins of Samaritan palaces, Byzantine churches and Hellenic watchtowers. In the same vicinity, tourists can see the Ottoman railway station before settling down for the night in one of the renovated Byzantine rooms. Visiting the ruins is truly a unique experience, where the tall ruins of pillars, houses, and temples will have you slipping into another era entirely.

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