Torpa stenhus is a well preserved medieval castle near Åsunden. The first stone house was built around 1470 by Privy Council Arvid Knutsson as fortress against the Danes. Reconstruction and remodeling took during the 1500s and 1600s. In the late 1500s the castle was enlarged and modernized: the 4th floor was added, the tower was erected and halls were decorated with beautiful paintings. The castle has still today a well-preserved Renaissance interior. The castle is best known in history as the manor of the Swedish noble family of Stenbock. It was the residence of Catherine Stenbock, third and last consort of King Gustaf Vasa.
The first half of 17th century was a heyday of Torpa Stenhus. Gustav Otto Stenbock built a new wooden manor house adjacent to the stone castle, which was used for representative events. The baroque style chapel was also built and decorated in the late 1699.
Later Torpa has been owned by Sjöblad and Sparre families. Today it hosts a hotel, restaurant and conference center.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).