Forte San Giovanni was built between 1640 and 1644 just above the point where the valleys of rivers Pora and Aquila meet with the aim of strengthening defenses. The fort was adapted to the geographic topography and enclosed the ancient medieval tower linking the Finalborgo walls on Becchignolo hill. The work was directed by Ferdinando Glazer. This tower was recorded by the historian Filelfo and portrayed in a drawing of 1571.
The building developed with a pincer-shaped façade facing south, with high crowned walls with no openings, surmounted by a low parapet, and with suspended look-out towers on each corner. The fortress underwent other modifications directed by Spanish engineer Gaspare Beretta between 1674 and 1678. It was abandoned by the Spanish in 1707 and, under the domination of Genoa in 1713, it was partially destroyed. In 1833 it became a prison.
Since 1960 it has been public property and it has recently been completely restored.References:
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).