The most famous Sistine Chapel in the world is indubitably the one in Rome, site of the conclave where new popes are elected. But there is one also in Savona, Liguria, bearing testimony to the city’s role in the history of Roman Popes.
Pope Sixtus IV, in particular, born Francesco della Rovere in 1414, was originally from this area. His papacy (1471-1484) famously coincided with the launch of the “renovatio Urbis”, the urban transformation that lead to Rome’s transformation from Medieval to Renaissance city.
Sixtus IV is also remembered for sponsoring the reconstruction of what would become known – albeit only from the papacy of his nephew, Julius II della Rovere – as the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Julius II, who went down in history as the patron of Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo, was born near Savona as well.
The Sistine Chapel in Savona was built by Sixtus IV as a mausoleum for his parents in their hometown.
It was constructed between 1481 and 1483 next to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. During the 18th century, the interior of the building was covered in frescoes and stuccoes by local artists, by will of another pope, Pius VII, who spent in Savona a large part of the exile Napoleon forced him to between 1809 and 1814.
Savona is home to many other interesting religious buildings, which are certainly worth a visit to the beautiful seaside city.
On top of the Cathedral we already mentioned (with the annexed Museum of the Treasury and a gorgeous wooden choir from the early 1500s), we recommend stopping at the Oratory of Our Lady of the Castle (with a late-15th-century polyptych), and at the Romanesque Chapel of Saint Martin (where you can enjoy a rare example of Savona’s medieval sculpture).