It took three tries spanning ten years,

but I finally got to explore inside the intriguing Genoa Cathedral!

San Lorenzo Cathedral - Genoa, Italy

Did it help that this time we had plans to get together with friends Lorenzo and Silena and that the namesakes were destined to bring me good fortune? Let’s say yes.

Whatever the reason, when sister Jackie and I were there in 2007 and wandered around, nary a door was open. Repeat the closed doors when Alex and I went in 2012. The place was locked up tight, unusual in a European church.

Someday I’ll discover the reason why many USA churches button up when not performing services while the churches in Europe are almost always open. Or maybe I hit both at the right/wrong times? Could be me.

Quick facts about the Genoa’s San Lorenzo Cathedral:

  • Roman Catholic and was consecrated by Pope Gelasius II in 1118.
  • Construction started in the 12th century with additions continuing into the 16th century.
  • Both Gothic and Romanesque in style with the region’s signature stripes of black and white marble.
  • At the end of the First Crusade, the ashes of St. John the Baptist, (Genoa’s patron saint) were brought to, and remain housed in, the church.
  • Located in Europe’s largest medieval center made the square in front of it a place of prominence for community occasions, religious celebrations and government events throughout the Middle Ages.
  • The two exterior lions hail from the 19th century, looking a bit sad more than fierce.
  • Named for Saint Lawrence (translated: Lorenzo), who was grilled to death by the Prefect of Rome. The story goes that he had such belief in God that he stated, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” That’s a lot of faith. He’s the patron saint of cooks.

The interior

Inside are grand arches, the Chapel of St. John the Baptist and, under the main church, the Museo del Tesoro (fee to tour) which hosts such things as what was once believed to be the Holy Grail, a golden plate which may have held John the Baptist’s severed head, and La Croce deli Zaccaria—a 12th century reliquary.

Take time to study the paintings, sculptures, and stained glass. Remember that this is a church, there is an area reserved for prayer and even though photographs are permitted, make sure to turn your camera flash and sound off. And don’t, as we did, miss the 1941 bombshell (yes, the casing only) that fell into the church without exploding! It resides on the right-hand side.

Even if you don’t, as I do, light a candle for someone, please leave a donation.

Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata del Vastato

Another Catholic cathedral, this basilica is among the most ornate with an elaborate Baroque style hailing from the 17th century. The church was actually started before that by the Franciscans in the 14th century.

It’s always fascinating that within a Romanesque or Baroque church you can have Gothic chapels. The buildings, like the communities they reside in, become a mishmash of styles from other countries, the whims of the church, or the rich patrons sponsoring construction. The combinations work and give us present day visitors a microcosm of what was.

There are many other churches to be explored in Genoa:

  • San Matteo (Matthew)
  • Sant’Agostino
  • San Donato
  • Chiesa del Gesù
  • San Siro (a bit out of the city center)
  • San Pietro (Peter)

Because of the age of Genoa, it is a fascinating place to wander around. And don’t forget to follow the maps scattered about on the city’s wall.


Read: A walking day in Genoa, Italy