The Benedictian Abbey of Pontlevoy (Abbaye de Pontlevoy) was established in 1034. It made the town an important commercial and cultural center. A local knight named Gelduin de Chaumont founded to fulfill a vow. It is believed that Gelduin's boat was caught in a storm on the way back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He prayed to the Virgin for help, promising to build Her a church in Pontlevoy, which he held as a vassal of the Count of Blois. Allegedly, the Virgin dressed in white, appeared above the rolling deck and calmed the sea.
Geldiun endowed the abbey with enough revenue for Benedictine monks to build a huge church, dedicated to the White Virgin. From the east, it looks like a complete Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses and trefoil stone tracery in the windows of the radiating chapels. There is a gravel courtyard where it the nave should be.
The church was almost completely destroyed during the Hundred Years' War. The monks rebuilt the apse and choir but couldn't afford to replace the rest. Inside, on the wall behind the altar, there is a little 11th-century statue of the White Virgin with her Child in her arms. The child leans against her left shoulder. She presses his left hand to her heart. The naif style indicates it was done by a local mason rather than a professional sculptor. The monks ran a hospital here, with a sanctuary for lepers, until the 16th century. But by 1623, when Cardinal Richelieu was named abbot, the monks had abandoned their vows and the buildings were in ruins.
Richelieu repaired them and brought in six Benedictine monks from St. Maur. They started a seminary for the sons of the nobility and the rich bourgeoisie. Students came even from England. In 1776, Louis XVI turned the school into one of the 12 royal military academies of France; a huge cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard was planted in honor of his accession to the throne.
In the 19th century after The Revolution, the college became a private, secular institution, proud of its conservative tradition producing famous scholars, provincial officials, priests and soldiers. It was a boarding school; some families moved to Pontlevoy to be near their sons. They built large, elegant houses with steep, slate roofs, walled gardens and spiked wrought-iron fences that still grace the town. The huge 18th-century building - three stories high with a mansard roof - resembles those government ministry buildings around the Palais Bourbon in Paris. The college closed for a period of time after the Second World War.
The previous owner of the abbey and the college was the Marquis du Vibraye, a descendant of Gelduin, allowed Pontlevoy to open a municipal museum on the third floor. The first two rooms displayed a collection of 19th- and early 20th- century cards advertising Poulain Chocolates. The company, founded by Auguste Poulain, who was born in Pontlevoy in 1815, is still a major manufacturer in Blois. Poulain was a pioneer of modern advertising. Each year his company issued a new series of brightly colored cards commemorating notable men (including Benjamin Franklin) with flowers and illustrations of fairy tales. They were collected and traded throughout Touraine in the 19th century.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.