The second Sistine Chapel in Italy? Follow me to discover more…

Sistine Chapel of Savona *

Do you know that there are two Sistine Chapels in Italy? Of course, the first and the most famous one is situated in Rome. And what about the second Sistine Chapel? Keep in mind that both Chapels were constructed at the behest of Pope Sixtus IV. Obviously, both took their name from him!

The second Sistine Chapel and two Popes original from Savona

Pope Sixtus IV Della Rovere, the 212th pope of the Catholic church, was born in Celle Ligure, near Savona. To honor the memory of his parents Leonardo Della Rovere and Luchina Monteleoni and to host their tombs, in 1481 he decided to commission the construction of the Sistine Chapel in Savona.

After the death of Pope Sixtus IV in 1484, his nephew Julius II completed the construction works of the Chapel. Some years later Julius II became the pope of the Catholic church as well.

So, besides the second Sistine Chapel, the inhabitants of Savona can be proud of having two Popes coming from their town!

The funerary monument

On the relievo above the sarcophagus, you can see Pope Sixtus presenting his parents to Madonna with the child. On the left side, there are Sant’Antonio from Padova and Saint Francis.  Both Saints were considered the patrons of the Della Rovere noble family.

As you can notice, the Pope receives the globe from the child. What does it mean? For sure, it means that the Pope’s parents will go to paradise. But, in return, he should guide human souls and carry on Christianity.

Funerary Monument, Sistine Chapel of Savona
Funerary monument, Sistine Chapel of Savona*

Later restoration in rococo style

The wall behind the Altar is the only original decoration that remains to us. Unfortunately, Savona fell into decay for almost two centuries. Since then the chapel was used as military barracks by Austrian troops and as lazaretto.

Being the last descendant of the family who kept the patronage of Chapel, Francis Maria Della Rovere decided to restore it in 1762-1764. Certainly, he followed the artistic tendencies of that time, in particular – rococo style.

Which changes did Francis Maria Della Rovere introduce to the Chapel?! The first one is the organ which is still functioning! The second one is rococo stuccowork decorations with hand made leaves and flowers. Who knows how much time it took to realize these leaves and flowers?!

Organ by Pittalunga, Sistine Chapel of Savona*
Organ by Pittalunga, Sistine Chapel of Savona*

The symbol of the oak

In top corners, you can see Della Rovere’s coats of arms with oak leaves! No doubt, you will ask me – why oak? It’s just easier than you think: the surname “Rovere” means “oak” in Italian!

Moreover, on the vault, there is a fresco with Adam and Eva, but there is no apple tree behind them! There is oak, the symbol of the family Rovere power!

The altarpiece

In the chapel, you can also admire the altarpiece in baroque style. Unfortunately, the polyptych is not original. The original one is exhibited at the Museum of Avignone.

Altarpiece, Sistine Chapel of Savona*
Sistine Chapel of Savona: the non-original altarpiece*

What else?! Don’t miss the Cathedral of Savona!

Once you visit the Sistine Chapel in Savona, you are “obligated” to see the Cathedral of Savona attached to the Chapel. Without a doubt, you will be enchanted by the wood choir built at the behest of Julius II, by the ancient crucifix in walnut wood dated 1490 and by the miracle of the column!


Enjoy your staying in Savona!

*the photos were taken from the internet site


“Duomo di Savona. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e Cappella Sistina”, Marcella Marcenaro Rosso, Sagep Editori – 2012;
“Liguria nascosta. 55 luoghi da scoprire e visitare”, Andrea Carpi, Edizioni del Capricorno – 2017;
Internet site

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