The outside of the Palace
AT FIRST GLANCE
In 1570, the Palace underwent radical extension and renovation works that profoundly altered its original appearance. The new building developed towards the sea and had a compact and homogenous external shape, with façades decorated in the style of Genoese Renaissance architecture, including a spectacular fresco decoration. At the beginning of the 17th century, the patrons of the Bank of Saint George decided to entrust Lazzaro Tavarone with the task of frescoing the seafront of Palazzo San Giorgio, replacing a previous decoration carried out in 1591 by Andrea Semino, which was not appreciated by the notables.
Tavarone began the restoration project in 1606 and completed it in 1608.
Since then, the sea façade of Palazzo San Giorgio has featured St. George and the Dragon, Janus Two-Faced, Neptune, Caffaro, Andrea Doria, Simon Boccanegra, Guglielmo Embriaco, Christopher Columbus and Biagio Assereto, symbols of the power and wealth that Genoa had conquered over the centuries by navigating the sea.
The following restoration of the Palazzo’s façade dates back to 1912 and it was commissioned by the Autonomous Port Consortium to Lodovico Pogliaghi, who repainted the decorations on the façade facing the sea. They were later restored by the painter Raimondo Sirotti in 1992 on the occasion of the Columbus celebrations. Artworks of equal importance, including a 16th-century aedicule and a plaque dedicated to Nazario Sauro, are also present along the remaining three sides of the Palace.
It should be noted that in front of the north façade, at a lower level than Piazza Caricamento, there are the ruins of black and white rock columns that were part of the early 16th century extension and a small doorway above which there are faded traces of 15th century frescoes.
Discovering the outside of The Palace
Christopher Columbus (1451/1506)
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451, the son of Domenico Colombo and Susanna Fontanarossa.
Little is known about his childhood, but it is certain that he started sailing very young, probably at the age of fourteen. He soon turned to trade, serving the Genoese families Centurione, Di Negro, Imperiali and Spinola. His travels took him to Lisbon, where he moved temporarily. He returned to Genoa one last time to get married, but shortly after the wedding he moved to Madeira with his wife Filipa Moniz Perestrello; there he tried his hand at self-employment, with little success. Finally, from Madeira he moved back to Portugal. As is well known, Christopher Columbus had to face struggles and rejections before his project was approved. What is certain is that an agreement was made with the Spanish sovereigns on 17 April 1492. On 3 August of that year, Columbus left the port of Palos de la Frontera on a ship called Santa Maria, and two caravels, the Pinta and the Niña. On 12 October, Columbus landed on an island in the Bahamas, which he named San Salvador. After his fourth journey, he decided to withdraw from public life in Valladolid, where he died in 1506.
Andrea Doria (1466-1560)
Andrea Doria was born 15 years after Christopher Columbus (Oneglia, 1466) and became Admiral of the Mediterranean Sea, sailing for over fifty years in service to kings and emperors. He pursued a military career and in 1512 took command of the Genoese troops until the city was conquered by the Spanish in 1522. After a short period in service to the French, Doria restored the Republic of Genoa in 1528.
Biagio Assereto (1383-1456)
He was born in Genoa, towards the end of the 14th century. In 1423 he was appointed Chancellor of the Republic for the first time. In August 1435 and although his appointment was contested by the Genoese nobles, he led the Genoese fleet that was sent to help the garrison of Gaeta, besieged by the Aragonese. On 5 August 1435, he defeated the enemy army in the waters of Ponza, capturing King Alfonso, his brother John of Navarre, the Infante Henry, the Viceroy of Sicily and many other Neapolitan and Aragonese nobles.
The victory of Ponza marked the height of Biagio Assereto’s fame and glory. However, the greatest recognition came from Milan and Genoa as he received the fiefdom of Serravalle in 1435. The city of Genoa also honoured him by donating one of the keys to the treasure taken from Alfonso of Aragon and kept in the Cathedral of Genoa.
Simone Boccanegra (1363)
He was the first popular “lifetime doge” in the history of Genoa. His appointment in 1339 marked the beginning of the age of the perpetual Doges and the popular hegemony that characterised the Genoese Republic’s government.
Guglielmo Embriaco (second half of 11th century – first half of 12th century)
Known as Testa di Maglio, founding father (d. 1102) of the Embriaci; at the head of an expedition organised by Genoa, he landed in Jaffa in 1099. Tradition attributes him a major role in the conquest of Jerusalem, as the creator, during the siege, of a mobile tower. In 1101 he conquered Tyre and Caesarea, obtaining as spoils of war a large vase (the Sacred Basin) in which Jesus was said to have eaten the paschal lamb and which is kept in the treasury of the St Lawrence Cathedral in Genoa.
Caffaro was the author of the Annals, a very valuable source of information to reconstruct the Genoese Middle Ages. He enlisted with Guglielmo Embriaco to go to the aid of Goffredo di Buglione and his crusaders.
In the portico, which in medieval times was used as the main entrance to the Palace and which looked out over the Ripa Maris, a plaque in Latin is built into the top of the ogive of the central portal: it describes the foundation of the building. The Italian translation of the text is located to the right of the jamb.
Beneath it, there is a 13th-century lion’s head which, according to tradition, was brought from Constantinople.
Two more plaques recall events related to the history of the palace. The first attests Marco Polo’s presence in Palazzo San Giorgio, where he is said to have dictated The Travels of Marco Polo to Rustichello da Pisa.
The second dates from 1632 and states that no minister (or rather, official) was allowed to ask for bonuses beyond the due taxes. In front of the north façade, at a lower level than Piazza Caricamento, there are the ruins of black and white rock columns that were part of the early 16th century extension and a small doorway above which there are faded traces of 15th century frescoes.
Aedicule of Our Lady of the Assumption
At the back of Palazzo di San Giorgio, on the side towards Piazza della Raibetta, there is an aedicule of Our Lady of the Assumption from the 18th century. Two winged angels offer trays full of flowers to the Virgin, whose statue is sheltered in a niche and protected by an iron grill. A shell and two cherubim’s heads stand out under the wavy finial. Two more winged Cherubim’s heads appear above the curl of the profile. Higher up, two flying angels hold the large crown of Our Lady Queen of Genoa. At the top, the monogram of the Virgin sculpted in a floral cup with rays dominates the gilded baldachin decorated with floral friezes. On the cartouche, the inscription: “Viciniae Opifices / Sibi Svisqve“. Alizeri’s description also included another phrase: “Pulchra ut Luna”, which has now disappeared.
Halls and spaces
The outside of the Palace
Informations and services
The main entrance of Palazzo San Giorgio is located in via della Mercanzia 2, facing the ancient port of Genoa.
Pubblic Relations Office – URP
Palazzo San Giorgio
Via della Mercanzia, 2
16124 Genoa – Italy
+39 010 2412330
+39 010 2412842