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 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.