The former San Giacomo (St. James’s) Friary is located in Savona on a promontory overlooking the harbour, the town and great part of the Ligurian Riviera.
The Friary was built in 1472-76, during the golden Reinassence age of Savona; in that period two popes were born in Savona: Sixtus the Fourth (was pope from 1471 to 1484) and Julius the Second (pope from 1503 to 1513), both belonging to Della Rovere family.
The bridge connecting the town center with the friary was built by pope Sixtus the Fourth in 1479.
The two popes made Savona more beautiful and rich than ever, and the town became a sample for art and culture for all North-Western Italy.
The church, managed by the Observing Clog-wearing Franciscan Friars, has one shed-roofed nave, with cipress-wooden trusses. Ten chapels with ceiling vaults are distributed on both sides, where the most eminent personalities of the new aristocracy were buried. The famous local poet Gabriello Chiabrera (1552-1638) is still buried here.
The chapels hosted paintings and frescoes made by the greatest artists of that time: Ludovico Brea, Tuccio D’Andria, G. Mazone, Lorenzo Fasolo, etc.; some of these artworks today are in the Civic Painting Gallery (piazza G. Chabrol, 2) or in the Cathedral Treasure Museum (piazza Duomo), while others have been stolen and exposed abroad (Louvre Museum, Wiesbaden, etc.).
The part of the church reserved for the believers is separated from the presbytery, reserved for the friars, by a rood screen for musicians and preachers; this element is an extremely rare cultural heritage from that time in Italy.
The apse was completely frescoed, in the second half of the sixteenth century, by Ottavio Semino (1530-1604), a well-known painter active in all parts of Italy.
Along the side of the church there are two cloisters that had been frescoed with tales about St.Francis, the artist being Agostino Ratti (1699-1755) from Savona.
Among the other rooms, the very famous and furnished library must be remembered, that contained also some rare manuscripts written in Greek. Many of those books have been found and restored recently, and most of them are kept in the library of the Bishop’s Seminary sited in via L. Ponzone, Savona.
Finally the Friary was suppressed during the Napoleon age, in 1812, and dedicated to civil and military purposes, the cultural heritage was distroyed or dispersed, and the wide park of the friary was parcelled out.
Today the building, in many parts still recoverable, is waiting for a clever restoration for the benefit of citizens and turists.