Santa Maria di Castello

Church in Genova

Santa Maria Di Castello
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Davide Papalini

Santa Maria di Castello stands as one of the most captivating churches in Genoa, situated within the ancient heart of the city. Comprising a Romanesque basilica, an accompanying convent, and a museum, this monumental complex holds extraordinary significance. While the Romanesque architectural style and the invaluable artworks lend an air of splendor to this site, its true uniqueness emerges from its location in the city’s initial urban settlement, overlooking the natural shelter of the coast.

Visiting Santa Maria di Castello

The church’s façade and bell tower exemplify the characteristics of Romanesque architecture, brought to Genoa by the skilled craftsmen, builders, and engravers from Lombardy, known as the Antelami. A hallmark of their style is the reuse of materials gleaned from remnants of Roman structures. For instance, the marble cornice adorned with leaves and griffins has been masterfully repurposed as the architrave of the entrance gate. The inner columns and capitals maintain the foundational layout of the Romanesque basilica with three naves, adorned with the stylistic influences of the 18th century.

Adorning the vaults and lateral chapels are an illustrious array of paintings and frescoes crafted by artists from the Genoese school and beyond. Notable names such as Bernardo Castello, Aurelio Lomi, Grechetto, Giovanni Mazone, Domenico Piola, Luciano Borzone, Giovanni and Giovan Battista Carlone, Andrea Semino, and Giovan Battista Paggi contribute to this artistic treasure trove. The church also features sculptures and reliefs by Leonardo Riccomanno, Filippo and Anton Domenico Parodi.

In the first frescoed cloister, a Renaissance masterpiece awaits – the “Annunciazione,” painted in 1451 by Giusto da Ravensburg.

The Museum of Santa Maria di Castello resides within the convent, encircling three cloisters. It houses works by Ludovico di Brea, illuminated manuscripts, 15th-century frescoes, a splendid collection of Russian icons, and other masterpieces.

Historical Background of Santa Maria di Castello

Santa Maria di Castello occupies a pre-Roman site, marking the city’s initial fortified urban settlement. Over time, this site was fortified by Roman and Byzantine structures, alongside the construction of a bishop’s palace in the 9th and 10th centuries. It stood as a symbol of both military and religious authority within the city for centuries.

In 658, the Lombard king Ariperto potentially erected an initial sanctuary, later reconstructed in the early 12th century by the artisans of the Antelami in the form of a Romanesque basilica.

During the latter half of the 15th century, the church was entrusted to the Dominicans and emerged as a hub for humanists and writers. The convent concurrently expanded due to acquisitions and demolitions, resulting in the establishment of three cloisters by the mid-16th century.

Recent restoration efforts on the counter facade adeptly reinstated the Romanesque-style decoration and other elements, reaffirming the medieval essence of this remarkable sacred space.

The Santa Maria di Castello appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Genova!

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Visiting Santa Maria di Castello

Address: Santa Maria di Castello, Salita di Santa Maria di Castello, Genoa, Metropolitan City of Genoa, Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

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