The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great) is one of the most characteristic examples of transitional Romanesque architecture in Spain, the church of Santa María la Mayor is inspired by the Cathedral of Zamora, in turn inspired by the Old Cathedral of Salamanca. The tower-dome is usually listed as one of the four most typical in León together with those in the cathedrals of Salamanca, Plasencia and Zamora.
It was begun around 1170, and was finished in the mid-13th century. Two different directors of the work have been identified, according to the different types of stone used (limestone in the old sections, sandstone in the most recent ones), and by the barrel vaults in the transept. The church is on the Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles, with a transept over whose crossing is the hexadecagonal dome. The transept ends with three semicircular apses.
Notable is the Majesty Portico (Pórtico de la Majestad), which houses the southern entrance. It was built in the reign of Sancho IV of Castile and León (1284–1295), and is decorated with polychrome sculptures depicting scenes of the life of the Virgin, Christ and the Final Judgement.
Also in the church are the Flemish painting La Virgen de la Mosca ('Virgin of the Fly') and an unusual sculpture of a Pregnant Virgin, dating to the 13th century. The painting of the Virgin of the Fly is especially unusual because of the realistic portrayal of a fly on the tunic which covers the Virgin's knee. Studies of the work demonstrate that this insect was added later. These same studies have pointed out numerous touchings-up in the original painting, such as the halo that surrounds the head of the Virgin, previously covered by a veil, or the rich embroidery on the dress of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, whose face has a great resemblance to some paintings of Isabella I of Castile.References:
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France"s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.
Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670, as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers: the name is a shortened form of hôpital des invalides. The architect of Les Invalides was Libéral Bruant. The enlarged project was completed in 1676, the river front measured 196 metres and the complex had fifteen courtyards. Jules Hardouin Mansart assisted the aged Bruant, and the chapel was finished in 1679 to Bruant"s designs after the elder architect"s death.
Shortly after the veterans" chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter"s Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture. The domed chapel is centrally placed to dominate the court of honour. It was finished in 1708.
Because of its location and significance, the Invalides served as the scene for several key events in French history. On 14 July 1789 it was stormed by Parisian rioters who seized the cannons and muskets stored in its cellars to use against the Bastille later the same day. Napoleon was entombed under the dome of the Invalides with great ceremony in 1840. In December 1894 the degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was held before the main building, while his subsequent rehabilitation ceremony took place in a courtyard of the complex in 1906.
The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans until the early twentieth century. In 1872 the musée d"artillerie (Artillery Museum) was located within the building to be joined by the Historical Museum of the Armies in 1896. The two institutions were merged to form the present musée de l"armée in 1905. At the same time the veterans in residence were dispersed to smaller centres outside Paris. The reason was that the adoption of a mainly conscript army, after 1872, meant a substantial reduction in the numbers of veterans having the twenty or more years of military service formerly required to enter the Hôpital des Invalides. The building accordingly became too large for its original purpose. The modern complex does however still include the facilities detailed below for about a hundred elderly or incapacitated former soldiers.