The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is a beautiful church in Genoa, located in the small square with the same name. The cathedral is dedicated to San Lawrence, one of the patron saints of Genoa, together with Saint George, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Sebastian.
A first church was built on this place around the 5th or 6th century AD, and dedicated to the bishop of Genoa, San Siro (Saint Sirus). The first documents that attest the existence of a church dedicated to San Lorenzo date back to 878.
In 1007, the ancient church of San Siro was given to the Benedictine monks and the episcopal seat was transferred to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Starting with 1098, the reconstruction of the church began and the project was entrusted to the Magistri Antelami, master architects, sculptors and carpenters of Romanesque tradition. The building was consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasio II.
In the 13th century, the church was renovated in Gothic style. The first order of the facade, with its three Gothic portals, dates back to that period. After the fire of 1296, the building, very damaged, was rebuilt again. Between 1307 and 1312, the facade was completed and the right bell tower was begun.
Between the 14th and 15th centuries, several altars and chapels were built, including the Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the left aisle, designed to accommodate the ashes of the city’s patron saint, brought to Genoa at the end of the First Crusade.
In 1455, the loggia was built on the left tower and, in 1522, the Mannerist crowning was added to the right one, completing it.
Around 1550, the city council commissioned a project to the Perugian architect Galeazzo Alessi to renovate the entire building, but the works were never completed. He executed only the ceiling of the nave and aisles, the floor, the dome and the apse.
Between 1894 and 1900, the church was renovated again, and the sculptor Carlo Rubatto redesigned the external access stairway, adding the two lions on the sides. On the occasion of the Jubilee Year of 2000, considerable restorations were made.
The facade presents black and white horizontal bands, which in the Middle Ages were a symbol of nobility, typical of the Genoese use.
The three Gothic portals of the facade date back to the 13th century. In the lunette above the central portal, there is a bas-relief depicting Christ with Saint Lawrence.
The interior of the cathedral has a basilical plan with three naves, a transept and a triple apse. The three naves are separated by 14th-century marble columns surmounted by matroneums.
Inside the church, we can find frescoes by Luca Cambiaso, a Crucifixion with Saints by Federico Barocci, an Episode from the life of St. Lawrence by Giovanni Andrea Ansaldo, a ceiling fresco of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence painted by Lazzaro Tavarone and an Assumption of the Virgin by Gaetano Previati.
Sculptural works include statues in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist by Domenico Gagini, Matteo Civitali and Andrea Sansovino, 4 statues by Taddeo Carlone in the Chapel of Saint Sebastian and other works by Giacomo and Guglielmo Della Porta, and Carlo Barabino.
The Museum of the Treasury, located in the underground of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, holds a collection of jewellery from the year 9 AD up to the present. The most important piece of the collection is the Sacro Catino (Sacred Bowl) brought by Guglielmo Embriaco after the conquest of Caesarea and supposed to be the chalice used by Christ during the Last Supper.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is located about 1.4 kilometers from the Genova Piazza Principe train station. The closest Metro stop is San Giorgio, located about 270 meters away. To find the cathedral on foot, use the map below.