Erected in 1154 as a notable example of the Arab-Norman architecture which flourished in Sicily under Norman rule on the island, the Church of San Cataldo is annexed to that of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio. In the 19th century it was restored and brought back to a form more similar to the original medieval edifice.
The church has a rectangular plan with blind arches, partially occupied by windows. The ceiling has three characteristics red, bulge domes (cubole) and Arab-style merlons. The church provides a typical example of the Arab-Norman architecture, which is unique to Sicily. The plan of the church shows the predilection of the Normans for simple and severe forms, derived from their military formation. Moreover, the building shows how international the language of Norman architecture was at the time, as the vocabulary which marks parts of the church, like the bell tower, can be tracked down in coeval buildings like the cathedral of Laon and the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen, both in Northern France, or the cathedral of Durham in England. At the same time, the church shows features shared by Islamic and Byzantine architecture, such as the preference for cubic forms, the blind arches which articulate the external walls of the church and the typical spherical red domes on the roof.
The interior has a nave with two aisles. The naked walls are faced by spolia columns with Byzantine style arcades. The pavement is the original one and has a splendid mosaic decoration. Also original is the main altar.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.