Submitted by scott on

The old Cathedral of San Lorenzo is about as notable a building as we have found in Genoa. It is vast, and has colonnades of noble pillars, and a great organ, and the customary pomp of gilded moldings, pictures, frescoed ceilings, and so forth. I cannot describe it, of course—it would require a good many pages to do that. But it is a curious place. They said that half of it—from the front door halfway down to the altar—was a Jewish synagogue before the Saviour was born, and that no alteration had been made in it since that time. We doubted the statement, but did it reluctantly. We would much rather have believed it. The place looked in too perfect repair to be so ancient.
The main point of interest about the cathedral is the little Chapel of St. John the Baptist. They only allow women to enter it on one day in the year, on account of the animosity they still cherish against the sex because of the murder of the Saint to gratify a caprice of Herodias. In this Chapel is a marble chest, in which, they told us, were the ashes of St. John; and around it was wound a chain, which, they said, had confined him when he was in prison. We did not desire to disbelieve these statements, and yet we could not feel certain that they were correct—partly because we could have broken that chain, and so could St. John, and partly because we had seen St. John’s ashes before, in another church. We could not bring ourselves to think St. John had two sets of ashes.
They also showed us a portrait of the Madonna which was painted by St. Luke, and it did not look half as old and smoky as some of the pictures by Rubens. We could not help admiring the Apostle’s modesty in never once mentioning in his writings that he could paint. 

From Baedeker:

*S. Lorenzo, the cathedral, erected in 1100 on the site of an older structure, was frequently altered in the 15th and 16th cent., so that it now exhibits three distinct styles of architecture (Romanesque, Lombard -Gothic , Renaissance ). The façade, constructed of alternate layers of black and white marble, is embellished by recumbent lions, of which the lower, on the r. and l. of the flight of steps, are modern. Over the principal portal are old reliefs of Christ and the emblems of the four Evangelists; beneath them the martyrdom of St. Lawrence.

The Interior, with its circular vaulting and octagonal dome, is supported by 16 Corinthian columns and 4 pillars , above which there is a second series of columns.  The 2nd Chapel on the l. (di S. Giovanni Battista ) contains six marble statues by Matteo Civitali, and a John the Baptist and Madonna and Child by Sansovino. In the vaulting of the choir , the martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Tavarino, executed at the beginning of the 17th cent. ; choir-stalls in 'tarsia ' (inlaid work ) by Fr. Zabello .  In the Sacristy is preserved the vessel ( Vaso Catine) from which Christ and his disciples are said to have partaken of the paschal lamb , captured at Cesarea by the Genoese during the Crusades.

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