The west front of Notre-Dame la Grande church adorned with statuary is recognised as a masterpiece of Romanesque religious art. The district was already populated in Roman times. The ancient vestiges of a brick and rectangular stone construction can be located near the gutter on the northern wall of the current church.
The church is mentioned in the 10th century, referring to the Romanesque church of the same name. Its position next to the Palace of the Counts of Poitou-Dukes of Aquitaine, is certainly significant as from the political point of view, the bishops of Poitiers were barons of Poitou. The whole of the building was rebuilt in the second half of the 11th century, in the period of High Romanesque, and inaugurated in 1086 by the future Pope Urban II.
The plan of the church is composed of a central nave with aisles according to a frequent plan in Romanesque architecture of Poitou. A deambulatory with radiating chapels developed around the church which preserved a part of its murals. A crypt of the 11th century, dug a posteriori under the choir, also preserves frescos of the time. The plan does not have transepts, for good reasons: buildings were in the north, and the principal street passes to the south. The Romanesque gate is preserved in part to the south. Cut down by this stage, one found there before the Revolution, an equestrian statue representing Constantine. This statue was the counterpart of another, older statue destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. It is not known if the identity of the first rider had been the same. Behind this statue, on the ground, a small vault dedicated to Saint Katherine was referred to during the Middle Ages. The bell-tower dates from the 11th century. In the beginning it was much more obvious: the first level is concealed today by the roofs. Located at the site of the crossing, it presents a square base, then over it a circular level of a roof decorated with tiles. This type of roof, frequent in the south-west, was often copied by the architects of the 19th century, in particular Paul Abadie in Angoulême, Périgueux and Bordeaux.
During the second quarter of the 12th century, the old bell-tower-porch which was on the frontage was removed and the church was increased by two spans towards the west. In the south, the turret of a staircase marks the site of this enlargement. It is at that time that the celebrated frontage-screen was built.
In the north, there was a cloister in the 12th century. It was removed in 1857 for the construction of the metal markets. There remains the door (walled up). Three arches supported by columns duplicated with capitals with foliage were re-installed in the court of the university opposite, as was a pillar on the corner.
Private vaults were added to the Romanesque structure during the 15th and 16th centuries. Of Flamboyant Gothic style, they belonged to the middle-class families of the city, who had been merchants since the end of the Middle Ages. The largest was built in the south by Yvon the Insane, Grand Seneschal of Poitou in the 15th century. His tomb was placed there before the Revolution.
The church was refurnished after the Revolution. Thus, one finds there a Baroque pulpit carved from wood in the 17th century, coming from the convent, two bronze lecterns of the 16th century. The statue of Our Lady of the Keys dated from the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century. The tradition says that it is a copy of the miraculous statue, destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. Its hieratic, foreign style in the taste of the end of the 16th century, recalls the Romanesque period. The whole of the stained glass dates from the 19th and 20th centuries. The choir organ is end of the 19th century, whereas the large organ is from 1996.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.