Kolga manor was founded in 1230 by the Cistercian monastery, located on the Swedish island of Gotland. In 1581 Sweden’s King Johan III presented Kolga to his army commander, Pontus de la Gardie. Through marriage, the manor changed hands from this well-known Swedish family to the Stenbocks who were the owners until the land reforms of 1920. In 1993 the grandiose mansion was returned to the Stenbocks. The building’s history has had many phases: the stone building, built in de la Gardie’s time, has remained intact among the other buildings. Between 1765 and 1768 Count Karl Magnus Stenbock had a late-Baroque central section with a high roof built.
The Stenbock family is one of the most famous Swedish families. Their forefather, Field Marshal Magnus von Stenbock, was one of the most influential people in Sweden alongside King Karl XII. Generally known as humane masters, his grandson Carl Magnus von Stenbock became notorious for permitting 1200 farmers from his manor to be deported to Ukraine in the 18th century. Among all the family members bearing military titles, there were also those with a different destiny, such as Eric von Stenbock, bohemian poet and a friend of Oscar Wilde, who died at a young age in England. Today the manor is in the hands of Finnish relatives of the Stenbock family.
Kolga was one of the largest manors in Estonia. With its 50000 hectares of land and many other smaller manors nearby, such as Kiiu and Kõnnu, all in all it was almost the size of some smaller German duchies. Even if most of the buildings are in ruins, the manor still leaves a powerful impression. Next to the main house, in the former stable, is a cosy hotel (with 20 double rooms) and conference rooms are located in the manager's house. The main building houses the village shop and a rural restaurant.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).