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G - Day : Savona and the 2nd Sistine Chapel

Savona's old town with the Medieval Towers seen from the Genovese Priamar Fortress

The day finally arrived. After months of planning, negotiations and preparations, we woke up to 15 July. The Manatea, our boat for the two weeks to Marseille, was mored in the old port of Savona . We met her and the crew this morning.

Manatea, our home for the the next 14 days

Our boat was a few yards away from a giant cruise ship boarding hundreds of passengers at the same time. We were only six though.

The Costa Smeralda was embarking passengers this morning

Savona, the once proud rival of Genoa, is today the embarkation point for several Mediterranean cruise ships. Hotels and restaurants are geared up for the large numbers who get on board here. Many stay just for a meal or a night, only a few for a quick stroll through the old town. Savona is not a busy place.

Locals have their Coffee and Brioche in Old Town Savona

That Genoa and Savona were once bitter rivals nobody knows. The locals though never forgot how badly Genoa treated them after victory in 1528. The upper town and the Santa Maria Cathedral on the Priamar outcrop were flattened, a mighty Genovese fortress was built instead on the site and the harbour filled in. Genoa wanted to eradicate Savona.

The beautiful Cathedral Santa Maria di Castello was flattened

The Space is now excavated - as an act of defiance - by local archeologists

Where the Cathedral once stood, there are now powerful Bastions

Luckily, Savona had something the Genovese did not dare to touch. Pope SIxtus IV (1414 – 1484) and Julius II (1443 – 1513) were both from Savona. They were members of the Della Rovere family, the Dukes of Urbino. Family members also held powerful positions in the Franciscan Order and other church institutions. One famous Della Rovere, Francesco Maria, even became Doge of Genoa a good 200 years later. Thus Savona survived as the town who gave the world two popes. The Della Rovere Family keep a large palace here. After a while, commercial trade re-summed. The port was re-opened. Savona became a supplier to Genoa.

Pope Sixtus IV appoints Platinus (kneeling) as Prefect of the

Vatican Library. The future Pope Julius II standing in between

But back to the Della Rovere Family to Francesco Della Rovere, who became Pope as Sixtus IV. He joined the Franciscan Order as a young man. Quickly, he was noticed for his intellect, brightness and piety. After a long career in the order, at the age of 50, he was elected Minister General of the Franciscans and also became a Cardinal.

The Franciscan Monestary in Savone next to the Cathedral is

well preserved and open to visitors from 10 am to 3 pm

Six years later, in 1471, he was chosen as the next Pope. He is known today for having founded the Vatican Library and built the Sistine Chapel (1473 – 1481). He built a second Sistine Chapel though – one that very few people are aware of: the Capella Sistina in Savona next to the Franciscan cloister where he served. The second Sistine Chapel was built from 1480 – 1483 and contains the mausoleum of his parents.

The well know Sistine Chapel in Rome was finished in 1481 - it was built as a Fortress

The 2nd Sistine Chapel in Savona was finished only tow years later

Pope Sixtus IV had a knack for nepotism. He solidified his hold on power in the Catholic Church by putting his relatives into charge. He appointed two family members as cardinals at a time when the church had less than 30 cardinals. One of his appointments was Giuliano della Rovere, his nephew. Giuliano became later Pope Julius II. We know him as the Pope who made Michelangelo decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and carve his grave at San Pietro in Vincoli, the parish of his uncle.

Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's Frescos is the place where cardinals select the Pope

Pope Julius was a most talented diplomate and warrior prince. Using ever changing coalitions, he first defeated the Venetians, then turned against the Spanish and finally removed the French forces from Italy. By many historians, he is seen as the first leader who unified Italy. His achievements were the result of battle field victories though and not accepted by the surrounding powers. Living with a pope who collected 10% of global church revenue was one thing. Having a powerful prince controlling all of Italy another. Julius II’s successors lost almost everything he had gained. What remains are the Swiss Guards Julius II created in 1506 as personal protection. Their dress uniforms and parade weapons still reflect the time of their creation.

The Swiss Guard at a recent Parade in their 500 Years old Dress Uniform

We lifted anchor at 1 pm and slowly sailed from Savona to Noli, another important medieval town on the Ligurian coast. As Genoa, it participated in the first crusade (1099) providing ships and logistics. Its contributions was highly appreciated and officially recognised by the Kings of Jerusalem.

Noli seen from the Castello di Monte Orsino today

Noli gained independence in 1092 and was only subject to the rules of the Holy German Emperor. But as a small town, it wanted to have a strong ally and signed a mutual defence alliance with Genoa which lasted to the end of the Genovese Republic in 1798. Much of Noli’s medieval heritage still exists. We could not resist the temptation to climb up to the Monte Orsino Castle which protected the town on the mountain side.

Monte Orsino Castle lost its military Value a long Time ago - it is still in quite good shape

Most Visitor though come to Noli for the Beaches not for the History

After Noli, it was time to lift anchor again and move to Finale Ligure where we are going to stay for the night. Helen, our chef, promised a Salad Nicoise with water melon and lobster spaghetti. The wine will local Vermentino (white) and Dolceaqua (red).s

Finale Ligure tonight - our anchor and dinner place - the Genovese Castle is centre right

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