The Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was once part of the powerful Abbey of Saint Martin des Champs. The abbey was founded as a daughter house of the Benedictine monastery of Cluny in 1067. It was incorporated into the city in the 14th century when it was enclosed by the new city wall constructed under the management of the Prefect of Paris, Etienne Marcel. The church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was begun in 1420 and enlarged significantly in 1541. In 1615, another building project was completed that gives us the church we see today.
The Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was a center for charitable works and a refuge for pilgrims until its closing at the time of the French Revolution in 1793. It was re-opened in 1795 as a temple dedicated to Faith. In the 19th century it underwent a restoration and many works of contemporary artists were added to the interior along with works donated from other Paris churches.
The church is dominated by a beautiful tower which dates from the 15th century, the top portion dates from the 17th. Parts of the nave date from the first construction of the present building in 1420. The Renaissance portail on the south side was built in the 16th century and was inspired by a drawing by Philippe de l'Orme, the architect to King Henri II. Although it now has a fairly rough exterior owing to its long life and to the rise and decline of the area, the interior of the church of Saint Nicolas des Champs is quite remarkable for its light and beauty. Twenty five large windows account for the luminous quality and add greatly to the richness of the interior decoration.
There are many wonderful masterpieces in the church including The Baptism Of Christ, a work of the 16th century by Gaudenzio Ferrari.References:
The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily, including Ragusa, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality 'Ragusa Superiore' (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city 'Ragusa Inferiore' (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927.