The Church of San Lorenzo is a religious building dedicated to Saint Lawrence, located in a dominant position on a hill overlooking the village of Portovenere, close to the Castello Doria. The church is also known today as the Sanctuary of the White Madonna (Santuario della Madonna Bianca), the White Madonna being the patron saint of Portovenere.
According to some historical sources, a first church was erected here in Romanesque style starting with 1098, on a place where, in ancient times, there was probably a temple dedicated to Jupiter. The church was consecrated in 1130 by Pope Innocent II. At the end of the 14th century, the Church of San Lorenzo inherited the parochial title from the Church of San Pietro.
In 1340, a fire damaged the church and, in 1494, the building was partially destroyed by the incursion of the Aragonese. For these reasons, the church underwent restoration works between 1494 and 1582.
These interventions consisted in the replacement of the black Portoro marble columns with white marble columns, the demolition of the presbytery’s nave tower and its replacement with an octagonal dome, the reconstruction of the bell tower next to the apse and the replacement of the latter with a square choir.
The painting depicting the Virgin Mary, painted on a parchment, called the White Madonna for the skin’s glow, is still preserved today in a chapel. The painting, whose story is summarized in a manuscript of 1672, depicts Mary seated on a throne with the Infant Jesus holding a scroll of paper. In the painting, are also depicted two saints – the first is St. Christopher, while the second is still unknown today.
According to a careful restoration carried out recently, the painting dates back to the 14th century and only later was colored with tempera colors.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of San Lorenzo is located about 180 meters away from the Piazza Bastreri, the main square of the town. You can reach the church after a short climb.