The Monasterio de Santa María de El Paular is a former Carthusian monastery. Construction is believed to have begun in 1390 by orders of Henry II of Castile, and construction proceeded for fifty years under his son, John I of Castile. It was sited where an old chapel stood. Supposedly he was spurred to this project due to his plundering of a chartreuse during a campaign in France. This was the first chartreuse in Castille and Leon. In 1403, a small adjacent palace was built under Rodrigo Alonso. Multiple architects contributed to the complex, including Juan Guas, Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón, Francisco Hurtado and Vicente Acero. The refectory was designed in a Moorish style.
The monastery was dissolved in 1835, and not till 1876 was some state protection afforded to the site. Since 1954, part of the monastery is occupied by the Benedictine order; while part was a private luxury hotel, operating as the Sheraton Santa Maria de El Paular, for many years, until it closed in 2014.
The spectacular late-Baroque decorations of the chapel of the sacristy and its Transparente (mid-18th century) by Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo and containing polychromatic marbles, solomonic columns, and gilded leafwork, contrast with the rocky serene simpleness of the cloisters. The silver decoration of the church included a silver “custodia” weighing some 24 arrobas (approximately 15 kilogram per arroba), which among with many other items, was probably looted by Napoleon's troops. There is a large 15th century carved wood reredos in excellent condition, and a fine ironwork screen segregating the monastic choir from the nave.
While it still has an interesting library, its once famous collection of books and maps has been dispersed. In 1755, an earthquake damaged the tower and nave roof. Missing from the site are 52 paintings by Vincenzo Carducci on the life of St. Bruno and other devotional incidents. The paintings are in local museums, including the Prado in Madrid. The paintings were returned to the monastery after restoration in 2011.
Parts of both monastery and hotel are open for visits by the public.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.