The construction date of Toffen Castle is unknown. It first appears in a record on 19 May 1306 when Johann von Bremgarten gave up his estates, which included Toffen and Bremgarten Castles, to his uncles Heinrich and Ulrich von Bremgarten. In 1323 Peter von Gysenstein, a patrician from Bern, acquired the castle and Zwing und Bann right over the villagers of Toffen. The castle was inherited, through his daughter, by Johann Senn von Münsingen. In 1352 Ulrich 'Keseli' von Toffen, a local noble, bought part of the estate. Three years later, he bought the remainder. His family held the castle and surrounding estates for almost one hundred years.
After passing through several additional owners, in 1507 Bartholomew May (1446-1531) bought the estate. According to tradition, after the Battle of Novara, Bartholomew May brought the first bears to Bern's Bärengraben or Bear Pit. Bartholomew expanded and renovated the old castle into a late Gothic country manor house. The castle stayed in the von May family until 1610 when it was sold to Loys or Elogius Knobloch.
Knobloch brought in carpenters and artists from the Alsace region to renovate the castle interior. The Bretzelistube still contains the rich Renaissance style carvings as well as later paintings by the Bernese artist Joseph Werner. Loys Knobloch's daughter from his first marriage, Anna, married Abraham von Werdt in 1616. After the death of her father in 1642, von Werdt became the Freiherr over Toffen. The Toffen branch of the von Werdt family owned the castle for nine generations and today it is owned by Mrs. von May-von Werdt, who combines two family lines with extensive history at Toffen Castle.
In 1671-73 Johann Georg von Wendt rebuilt the entire castle into a Baroque manor. He removed an entire story from the main building and replaced the roof. The old curtain wall and gate house was demolished. An elegant garden replaced the old courtyard. A western wing was added to castle, with a great dining hall. He commissioned the popular Bernese landscape painter, Albrecht Kauw to paint four paintings that depicted the 'Castle and Lands of Toffen' in each of the four cardinal directions. Around 1750 Georg Samuel von Werdt expanded and renovated the castle again.
Following the 1798 French invasion, and the creation of the Helvetic Republic the owners of the castle lost their medieval rights to rule over, judge and punish the villagers. However, they retained ownership of the castle and it remains in private hands today.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.