Fleeing from the Normans and carrying with them the relics of their founder, St-Laumer, some Benedictine monks found shelter in Blois where they decided to build their abbey. the present church, today known as St. Nicolas, but whose real name is St. Laumer, was the former abbey-church.
From 1138 to 1186 these monks built the choir, the transept and the first row of columns of the abbey-church, completing it at the beginning of the next century. During the War of Religion the church was disfigured and the abbey itself destroyed by the Protestants. In the 17th and 18th centuries abbey was rebuilt, it was turned into a hospital at the time of the Revolution.
The speed with which the church was built and the sole addition of the apse chapel in the 14th century give a surprising unity to the whole. On entering the church, one could imagine that it was worked in the same stone by the same workman, for the same majestic and robust characteristics appear in all the different parts of the church. The elegant form of the choir, the crossbar, the majestic pillars of the transept-cross, the statues of people and masks which are to be found along the entire length of the building, the perspective inside the church, where the horizontal lines dominate the verticals; all this adds up to harmonious ensemble, which places the abbey-church of St. Laumer among the most remarkable examples of French medieval architecture.
However, two different periods of construction - about 20 years between them - have left the building with two different, and very marked, architectural styles. It is from the center of the church that the visitor will be able to notice these characteristics the most easily.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.