Brief history of St. Andrew's Church
The church of S. Andrew overlooks “Piazza dei Consoli del Comune” in the historic center of Savona.
A previous 12th century church (demolished to build the current one) which was located on the right side of the current building was already dedicated to this saint. There are no traces of walls or documents of this building.
The current building was built, from 1714 to 1716, by the Fathers of the “Company of Jesus” better known as “Jesuits” and dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the order).
The project was by Andrea Pozzo (Jesuit, architect, painter and decorator). In addition to the project, the entire cost for the construction was fully guaranteed by the Jesuits.
The chronicles of the time mention that on Christmas night of 1716 the first sung solemn mass was celebrated in the presence of many faithful and city authorities.
Next to the church (where today there is the “palazzo dei pavoni” the “Collegio” was also erected, the residence of the fathers and students which was in direct connection with the church.
Still today are visible inside the church, on the left side under the balustrade that surrounds the inside of the building, some oval windows with golden grates that allowed to attend religious functions without going down to the church as a corridor (still exists) it connected the college to the church.
The Jesuits had to leave Savona due to the bull of Pope Clement XIV of July 21, 1773, with which the company of Jesus was suppressed and removed from almost all of Europe. Only Pius VII in 1814 restored the religious order.
In their place, the “Mission Fathers” also known as the “Lazarists” installed themselves in the church and in the college. They too had to leave the church and the college with the arrival of Napoleon who suppressed all monastic orders.
It was in 1812 that Pius VII restored the church to worship with its first name: S. Andrew Apostle.
The urban reorganization of Savona which took place between the end of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth century for the construction of via Paleocapa brought about two important changes: the disappearance of the “college” annexed to the church and the lowering of the roadway which required the construction of the double marble staircase that allows access to the church.
We visit the church
(ref. 1 of the map)
the double staircase leading to the balcony in front of the door dates back to the early 1900s, as mentioned in the historical information.
completed in 1720 (four years after the construction of the church) it is divided into two levels. In the first level there are columns and pilasters that support the architrave and in the second a series of pillars that frame a large window. The building is dominated on the left by the bell tower with an onion dome (one of the few examples in Liguria).
(ref. 2 of the map) The interior: the church has a single nave, closed at the back by the presbytery.
The mural paintings branch off from the presbytery which, occupying the whole vault, represent the important events in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola (October 23, 1491(?) – July 31, 1556), founder of the Jesuits represented together with the main architects of the Compagnia di Jesus. At the end of this demo you will find some images of the vault.
The pictorial work is by Sigismondo Betti (1700-1784) a Florentine artist well known at the time who took many years to create (it was in fact completed in 1741). The other frescoed parts (columns, trompe d’oeil of the chapels and niches, gilding) are the work of Marco Sacconi, also from Florence.
(ref. 3 on the map)
Immediately after the entrance on the left there is the “baptismal font“. A wooden work by an anonymous author has been added to the bi-lobed basin in the shape of a tabernacle with four small doors, a work that can be dated around the second half of the nineteenth century, depicting the “baptism of Jesus and St. John the Baptist“.
Next to it (ref. 4 on the map) is the “Immacolata” chapel with the painting by Agostino Ratti (1699-1775) from Savona, entitled “Immaculate Conception adored by St. Francis de Sales and surrounded by little angels” dated 1749. full of symbols: note the twelve stars that form the diadem on the head, the devil imagined as a snake holding an apple in its mouth while the little angels are chubby and festive cherubs (one is holding an open book with the inscription “viva Gesù” ) Curious detail: the light tile at the bottom right contains the name of the artist, his date of birth and the age in which he painted the picture (Ioan. Augustinus Rattus – Pictor Saunen Faciebat – Ianue Anno 1749 – aetatis suae ann : 50)
(Ref. 5 on the map)
Chapel of the “Madonna del Buon Consiglio” (Our Lady of Good Counsel), where the canvas depicting the Madonna with the infant Jesus is arranged. The Virgin is enthroned and supports the Child sitting on her right knee with her hand. The throne has classic candelabra motifs and is full of marble inlays. The scene is delimited by a narrow perspective architecture illuminated by an oculus in the centre. In the upper part of the throne, on the left, the bust of the client; on the right, an angel gathered in prayer. Above, two little angels rest on the head of the Madonna a precious crown. The work is attributed to Defendente Ferrari (about 1485-about 1861). This painting was in the Augustinian church of S. Stefano opposite the “Torretta”, at the port. The church, like many others, was closed to cult during the Napoleonic period and became a deposit for the salt unloaded from the ships that docked in the port.
In 1938 the church was demolished to make way for the “skyscraper” facing the tower. The church was deconsecrated in the early 1800s and the painting was moved to this location.
The sixteenth-century table is enclosed and framed by a large painting on canvas by the Savonese Giuseppe Bozano or Bozzano (1815-1861) with various figures including Tobiolo and the angel and the archangel Raphael, iconographic themes linked to the patron saints of sailors .
(ref. 6 of the map):
The ambo and the presbytery have been extensively remodeled since its construction. Here you can see, behind the altar, the three frescoes declaiming the miracles of St. Ignatius (the removal of demons from young women [note the flames and a little devil coming out of the girls’ mouths] and the return to life of a child just deceased).
The wooden choir is from the second half of the nineteenth century. An important detail of this church is linked to the engineering ability of the Jesuits who also took care of the acoustic details. In fact, the sonority is strongly exalted throughout the church and increased by the four chapels which act as “resonance boxes”. The absence of columns and aisles as well as one or more domes accentuates the diffusion of a “clean” sound. This feature is still valued today as St. Andrew is the usual venue for numerous vocal and instrumental concerts. The two small boxes on the side of the altar with the four wooden cherubs of exquisite workmanship date back to the 18th century. While the left box (as well as the one above it, with the gold grille) was reserved for the nobility of the time who attended the functions, the right box contains the organ keyboard. The current organ is a “Desiglioli” from the end of the 19th century. Already at the time of the Jesuits that was the primitive seat of the organ which presents a curiosity. To respect the perspective symmetry, the pipes are both on the left and on the right. The active ones are only those above the keyboard while the others in front are “false pipes” in iron and wood
The main altar is the work of the early nineteenth century while the tabernacle and the statue of St. Andrew above the altar are from 1918, a gift from a family from Savona. The crucifix to the left of the Savona school balustrade from the early 1800s has eighteenth-century reminiscences and rests on a capital perhaps from the ancient cathedral of Savona located on the Priamar rock (about 1300-1400).
(ref. 7 on the map):
the Chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, whose full name is Francisco de Jasso Azpilicueta Atondo y Aznares de Javier. The painting depicts the co-founder of the Jesuits in the act of offering the city of Savona to the Madonna. This painting, by Angelo Benedetto Rossi (1694-1755) has two important characteristics: the most evident is the city of Savona, represented as it was at the beginning of the 1700s and the second is a characteristic sign of the Jesuits: wearing the crucifix in the belt as if it were a sword. This in memory of their military origin.
Another detail is the representation, in the vault of the chapel where Sigismondo Betti immortalizes the so-called “miracle of the crab“. In fact, it is said that St. Francis Xavier during his stay on the island of Tonga lost the crucifix at sea and it will be precisely a crab that picks it up in the sea and returns it to him.
(ref. 8 on the map):
dedicated to the Mission Fathers. Here we see St. Vincent de Pauli with a nun assisting the sick and dying. The painting is by Paolo Gerolamo Brusco, one of the most important painters of Savona (1742-1820) and is placed on another painting, which was lost, after the arrival of the Mission fathers who took over from the Jesuits.
Also in this chapel you can see two niches which enclose a St. Anthony of Padua (unknown author, datable around the end of the 18th century) and in the other a refined marble sculpture depicting the “Our Lady of Mercy with the blessed Antonio Botta“, attributed to Antonio Brilla from the second half of the 19th century.
(ref. 9 of the map):
The visit of the church ends with the “grotto of Lourdes” It is a reworking of the original cave of Massabielle, created in 1900, with a small fragment of the French cave. It does not have great artistic value but it is an important reference of faith for those who attend church.
Another detail is visible above the main door. The deposition of Christ is represented in the lunette.
The painting was inserted by the Lazarists, above the fresco representing Ignatius of Loyola during his convalescence in the cave of Manresa (Spain) in which he had his conversion. In the lunette, now hidden, there is the signature of the author of all the frescoes: Sigismondo Betti.
The Sacristy (ref. 10 on the map) is not currently open to the public due to renovation works.
The vault of the church is richly frescoed.
The narration of the “glory of St. Ignatius and the Jesuits” begins from behind the altar with the representation of three miracles performed by the saint (removal of the evil one from two demoniac girls and the restoration of a dead child to life) and continues in other three sectors: the one in the apse where St. Ignatius can be admired taken to heaven in liturgical ceremonial robes surrounded by angels to continue with the illustrious figures of the Society of Jesus and their fields of action where they operated throughout the world. The last sector represents the glory of God that illuminates the work of the Company.
Here are some pictures
here ends the visit of the church of S. Andrew Apostle on Savona.
We hope to have you with us again.
If you can leave a small contribution it will be used to help the weakest in our community.
canon Peter Giacosa
Historical-artistic sources: Cultural and Artistic Heritage Office of the Savona-Noli Diocese
Photographic material: Filippo Giusto
Graphics: Ugo Folco & Denis Pirra
Domain: “Musical Association G. Rossini atp – Savona”