The church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range. Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis is the only surviving katholicon (monastery church) of an 11th century Byzantine monastery in Cyprus. The church itself is dated to the 11th century, whilst the earliest written sources that mention the monastery are dated to the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. This monastery flourished from the Middle Byzantine period up to the period of Frankish rule. It declined during the 18th century and ceased to function as a monastery by the end of the 19th century. Ever since, it seems to have functioned as a simple country church and a pilgrimage site. Apart from the church, no other monastic buildings survive today.
The church is a domed cross-in-square structure and was originally without the narthex or the timber roof which covers both the nave and the narthex. This later steep-pitched roof, which carries a type of flat tile common in the area of Troodos, gave Agios Nikolaos the nickname 'of the Roof' ('tis Stegis') at least since the 13th century. The narthex was added at the beginning of the 12th century, whilst later additions and alterations changed the original appearance of the church and often resulted in the destruction of significant wall-paintings.
The interior of the church is decorated with frescoes belonging to various periods, which cover a time span of over 600 years. This entirely painted church has justly been described as a museum of Byzantine painting. The oldest phase of the mural decoration is dated to the 11th century and it is the most important set of wall-painting which survives on the island from this period. The paintings include scenes from the Dodekaorton (the life of Jesus), the Raising of Lazarus, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, isolated figures, etc. The next phase is dated to the 12th century and it includes wall-paintings from the southwest part of the church, the narthex and elsewhere. The composition of the Forty Martyrs and the figure of Ayios Nikolaos are worth mentioning.
Most of the mural decoration of the church is dated to the 14th century. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection belong to the end of the 13th-beginning of the 14th century, whilst the Christ Pantocrator on the dome, the Prophets on the drum of the dome and the Evangelists on the four pendentives date to the 14th century. In the nave and the narthex there is a group of life size saints dated to the same period. The larger than life-size of the military Saints Theodore and George on the northwest pier are particularly impressive. Later, in the 14th century, the apse and the east and south vaults were redecorated. Some of these frescoes are now exhibited in the Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation in Lefkosia. The same Museum also houses some significant portable icons from Agios Nikolaos the Stegis.
The last phase of the wall-paintings is dated to 1633 and it includes the Apostles Peter and Paul, who decorate the east piers supporting the dome, near the iconostasis which is also dated to the 17th century.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.