Toruń is a small historic trading city that preserves to a remarkable extent its original street pattern and outstanding early buildings, providing an exceptionally complete picture of the medieval way of life. These buildings in Toruń represent the highest achievements of medieval architecture in brick. The unique spatial layout of Toruń has survived almost intact and provides valuable source material for the history of town development in medieval Europe.
Toruń is situated in the region known in the Middle Ages as the Land of Chelmno. It was granted a town charter in 1233; a fort had been built in the early medieval period to the south-east of the town, facing the river, and this was rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Teutonic Order. The original function of Toruń was a base for the conquest and colonization of Prussia. However, the Old Town had quickly developed as a major commercial centre for trade between the Baltic and Eastern Europe, along the Vistula to towns such as Pskov, Novgorod and Vladimir. This commercial role expanded as the century proceeded. Toruń became the leading member of the Hanseatic League in the territories ruled by the Teutonic Order. The New Town developed from 1264 to the north of the castle and the east of the Old Town as a centre for crafts and industry. Toruń was one of the most important artistic centres, in particular in architecture, in this part of Europe. It was endowed with many architectural masterpieces, which were to exert a powerful influence on the Teutonic state and neighbouring countries. The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Toruń in 1473 and spent his youth there. The Swedish wars and the crisis in Poland in the 17th century brought the town"s prosperity to an end.
The Old Town, which forms the western part of the complex, is laid out around its central Market Place. The street pattern to the south, up to the river, is regular, with five parallel streets running down to the river intersected by cross-streets. The part to the north is also based on perpendicular streets, but they are laid out in a less regular fashion. The main feature of the Market Square is the imposing Old Town Hall, built in 1391-99 using some elements, including the tower of 1274, from its predecessor. An additional storey was added, in full conformity with the Gothic form of the building, in 1602-5. The Parish Church of St John (Cathedral of Toruń since 1992) was built in stages. The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly the church of the Grey Friars (Franciscans), contains 14th-century wall paintings, as well as some fine Baroque furnishings. The Old Town was fortified progressively between 1250 and 1300 with a double wall strengthened by bastions; these fortifications were reconstructed in 1420-49 and partly dismantled in the 19th century, but most of the southern sector facing the river survives intact, with gates and towers.
In the New Town, the Parish Church of St James is another fine building in late Gothic style. Its interior contains many Baroque furnishings. The Blackfriars (Dominican) Church of St Nicholas was almost entirely demolished in the 19th century. However, the remains of the church and its cloister have been excavated and laid out as a public park. Most of the Castle of the Teutonic Order was destroyed during the uprising of 1454. The remains have been excavated and laid out for public presentation as a museum. Both the Old and the New Town are rich in fine medieval brick burgher houses, many of which retain their original Gothic facades and interior fittings (partition walls, ceilings, painted decoration). Because of the survival of so many houses from this period, the medieval plots are for the most part still preserved, delineated by their original brick boundary walls.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.