Thursday, August 03, 2023

The Cathedral of St Lawrence in Genoa, Italy

Following up on two recent posts of photographs by Nicola de’ Grandi of the treasury museum of the cathedral of St Lawrence in Genoa (part 1; part 2), here are some pictures which he took of the church itself. Of course, as the cathedral of a city which was not just a major port, but the capital of an independent republic for nearly seven centuries, it is a very complex and richly decorated space, and here we can get no more than a glimpse of it.

Like so many of Italy’s great churches, the building is a palimpsest of the many different phases of its history. Construction began in the northern Italian Romanesque style in 1098, and the church was consecrated by Pope Gelasius II on October 10, 1118. Starting in about 1230, however, it was restructured in the Gothic style, most evidently in the three portals of the façade, and then heavily restored after a major fire in 1296. (The bishop of Genoa at the time of the fire was the Bl. Jacopo di Voragine, the author of the famous Golden Legend.) The incomplete left bell-tower had a loggia built on top of it in 1455, in the simple style of the Renaissance, and the upperpart of the right tower was added in 1522.

Over the central door, a relief of Christ with the symbols of the four Evangelists, and the martyrdom of St Lawrence, the cathedral’s titular Saint and one of the city’s patrons.
The Gothic interior has had many decorations of the Renaissance and Baroque periods added to it; in the ceiling of the choir, a fresco of the martyrdom of St Lawrence by Lazzaro Tavarone, and in the apse, his trial before the Roman emperor, by the same artist, both done in 1622. In the same period, the sanctuary was completely redecorated in the Baroque style.

The Sacrament chapel, to the left of the main choir, rebuilt in the Neo-Classical style in 1817-18.
In the left transept, the monument of the Cybo family, one of the most important families of the Genovese Republic, executed from 1533-37 by Giacomo and Gulielmo della Porta. The Pope at the bottom is a member of the family, Innocent VIII, who reigned from 1484-92.

Over the Cybo monument, the great Baroque organ, originally built in 1603, but heavily modified since then more than once. (Pope Boniface IX was also descended from this family, but was such a flagrant simoniac that his Papal name was never used again, so perhaps they would be just as happy to forget him.)  

To the right of the main choir, the chapel of Our Lady of Good Help (“Madonna del Soccorso”).
The archiepiscopal throne, and behind it, a statue on the high altar of the Virgin Mary, whom the Republic formally recognized as its Queen in 1637.

A fresco of the Last Supper, also by Lazzaro Tavarone, and in front of it, a monument to Pietro Cardinal Boetto, archbishop of Genoa during the Second World War (1938-46). As the largest port on the Ligurian coast, Genoa was bombed more than 40 times during the war, bringing damage or destruction to over 11,000 buildings, including 70 churches. Like Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Boetto is recognized as “defensor civitatis - defender of the city”; he also helped to rescue hundreds of Jews during the period of German occupation.

The cathedral seen from the roof of the palace of the Doges.
The sacrophagus of a one of the Fieschi, another of the city’s great noble families, who also gave the Church a third St Catherine, much less well know than her namesakes of Alexandria and Siena.

A sculpted Crucifixion scene of the 15th century.

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