The San Lorenzo Cathedral is one of the most famous sights in Genoa. Although consecrated as early as 1118, it took several more centuries for its construction to be completely finished. After the First Crusade, the mortal remains of John the Baptist were brought to the cathedral to be reburied in a sarcophagus in the San Giovanni Battista Chapel. Also on display is a shell that struck the church in World War II, but thankfully failed to explode.
San Lorenzo Cathedral Genoa
Address, opening hours and entrance fee
Address: Piazza San Lorenzo – 16123 Genova. Telephone: +39 010 265786. Metro: San Giorgio (MM)/De Ferrari (MM). Bus: 13, CM (Turati); 20, 35, 36, 606, 618, 635, 641, n1, n2 (De Ferrari). Opening hours: From 08.00 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 19.00. Opening hours Museo del Tesoro: Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 11:30 and from 15:00 to 17:30. Telephone: +39 0102471831. Admission to the Cathedral is free. Tickets for the Museo del Tesoro cost 6 Euros (5 Euros for 65+, free for children between 0 and 12.). A combi-ticket with the Museo Diocesano is 12 Euros.
History and description
It took a very long time to complete the construction of the San Lorenzo Cathedral. Although the work was begun around the year 1100, it was not considered complete until the 15th century. However, the church was consecrated by Pope Gelasius II as early as 1118.
The cathedral appears even larger than it really is because it was built on a relatively small square. The facade, which takes up an entire side of this square, is sandwiched between two bell towers and is characterized by alternating stripes of white and black marble. The left side bell tower was not completed.
The entrance is preceded by a staircase taking up the entire width of the facade. The stairs became necessary when the level of the church square was lowered, in the 1830s. Two enormous, slightly sad-looking marble lions are placed on each side of the stairs. They were sculpted in the same year, by Carlo Rubatto.
The portals were decorated by French sculptors in the 13th century. The reliefs in the lunette above the cental entrance were done by the same artists, as was the statuette on the right corner of the façade. The latter is popularly called “Scissors Sharpener” (Arretino). The reliefs depict, in addition to the symbols of the Evangelists, the “Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence”.
The interior consists of three naves, preceded by a narthex. In the right nave is a grenade fired by the British Navy on February 9, 1941. The grenade did hit the cathedral, but fortunately did not explode. Next to this grenade is a 15th century relief depicting a “Crucified Christ”.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the choir, the transept and the two side chapels were decorated in various ways.
The left side aisle is graced with frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries. The statues below the organ were made in the 16th century. There are also some funerary monuments.
San Giovanni Battista Chapel
A highlight is the San Giovanni Battista Chapel. During the crusade of 1098, the remains of John the Baptist had been found. They were shipped to Genoa and reburied, in this chapel. Domenico Gagini was responsible for the reliefs on the front of the chapel. Matteo Civitali and Andrea Sansovino made the sculptures. The canopy under which the sarcophagus was placed dates from the 16th century.
Treasury (Museo del Tesoro)
The Museo di Tesoro di San Lorenzo is located to the right of the chapel. This treasury of the cathedral holds liturgical items, altarpieces and reliquaries.