chiesa anticaThe Origins
Probably founded before the year 1000, in the Middle Age the church was called "San Giorgio de Pratis", for lawns that surrounded it. San Giorgio, which identifies an ancient center of religious life built along the Via Julia Augusta, the Roman road, was probably founded by the Benedictines. He remained a Priory dependent on the Abbey of Santa Maria that was based on 'Gallinaria Island, opposite the city of Albenga, and the monks lived there until 1616, when the parish was established in the nearby village of Campochiesa. Later  it was transformed into a church cemetery, it was gradually abandoned and, in 1887, severely damaged by a violent earthquake that caused the collapse of the first aisle and later the bell tower.
The whole complex has undergone renovations on several occasions, which began in 1901.

Architecture
The building was rebuilt in the Romanesque period (probably in the XII century). Later the building was restored and even expanded following the Gothic style. The various phases of the architectural style are clearly visible in the walls of the façade.
The primitive Romanesque church was established at a level of about 50 cm lower and the current was built, as is evident looking at the facade, with different material: the lower part in stone blocks; the upper part from brick. The limit of the original façade is identified following the oblique lines of the brick masonry. Three windows in the cross, symbol of the Trinity and of Christ's sacrifice, opened in Romanesque masonry.
The door, a symbol of Christ's original and has never undergone transformations.
In the fourteenth century the building was affected by expansion and raising, once again clearly identifiable on the facade. In the south-eastern side, towards the current parish church, there are three small windows (a further reminder of the Trinity) and apses were built in a rectangular shape, with single open that in the fifteenth century were swabbed to obtain greater surface to be frescoed in the interior.
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The Bell Tower

Featuring a beautiful masonry stone blocks, it was reconstructed on the basis of the Romanesque one and incorporated in the right aisle. In 1887, the violent earthquake that affected the Western Liguria, caused the destruction of the right aisle. Even the bell tower was seriously damaged and collapsed a year later. In the years 1934-36, the Municipality of Albenga financed the reconstruction and, to recover some of the costs incurred, sold to private the niches cut into the right aisle, which are still occupied by burials. The tower was restored using the original material, following the faithful reproduction in a watercolor made by a farmer who lived in a farm in front of the church.

 

 

The interior decorationchiesa antica4
The church of San Giorgio preserves a precious cycle of frescoes covering a period between the thirteenth and sixteenth century, witnessing the phases of development and decay of the building and of the whole area. In the ancient time the church was covered with plaster painted in bright colors and rich decoration suggested a sense of magnificence suitable to the house of God. If in the Middle Ages the houses of feudal lords are covered with paintings and precious fabrics, all the more must be the house of the Lord of lords. Beauty, then, raises the spirit and is always a reflection of the True. The paintings on the walls, also, in the intention of the Church take on a didactic function: educating and strengthening the faith of the Christian faithful who regard them. The Last Judgment, the figures of saints or scenes from the history of salvation and the life of the Virgin Mary, are all references to the reality of faith because this is lived in everyday life.

Nave - Presbytery

chiesa antica5It's 'the most holy part of the Church and therefore the most richly decorated. On the side walls and on the ceiling there are frescoes dating from the time of greatest splendor of St. George, which is the fourteenth century, while the Last Judgment on the end wall dates back to the fifteenth century. The fourteenth-century paintings develop the theme of salvation history. On the wall in the upper left, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the annunciation to the shepherds; in the foreground the bathroom of Jesus. The bath in which he is immersed has the shape of a chalice.
The wall at the top right, Christ and St. John the Baptist which intercedes for humanity. To the right and left, the theory of the twelve apostles of which we can recognize Saint Peter with the keys in hand (the first from left), St. John the Evangelist (the third, with the open book on which the opening sentence of his Prologue) San Bartolomeo (the fifth, with a knife in his hand, the instrument of his martyrdom), Saint Thomas (the first, under the window, with outstretched finger to remember his verification of the wounds of the Risen Christ), Saint Matthew the Evangelist (the third, with the open book on which is written the words at the beginning of the Our Father Prayer), San Giacomo Maggiore (the fifth, with the hat and the pilgrim's staff, the uniform of his devotees who came to his sanctuary of Compostela). The Apostles are all about Christ (represented from the altar) because of them the Church is founded, and they have announced and testified to the death his Gospel. They also remind us that the Church is a company of men walking together and to which Christ has entrusted to us.
On the vault, the symbols of the four Evangelists and, on the keystone (the round stone in the middle of the intersection of the ribs), the figure of the Mystic Lamb, a symbol of Christ, the keystone of our lives.
On the back wall, in the fifteenth century, was buffered the big window that opened and painted the fresco of the Last Judgment, the paintings the most notable of the entire cycle.
Below, the punishment of the seven deadly sins, each indicated by an inscription: pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth.
At the center, under King Solomon, the scene that made famous this fresco also outside of the area: the meeting of Dante and Virgil, with Count Ugolino he is gnawing the skull of Archbishop Ruggieri (the episode It is described in Dante's Divine Comedy, Hell in Canto XXXIII).
The representation of the Last Judgement reminds us with realism and clarity that we are all going to meet Christ personally to be judged on love and that from that judgment will come for us an eternal fate, of joy or pain. At sunset, the sun, powerful symbol of Christ, the sun of justice, penetrating the aisle through the mullioned window of the facade, lit a warm l 'apse and the Last Judgment, which symbolizes the final return of the Lord, in the twilight of history. The great scene invites us to conversion and send us a message of hope: through the confession of our sins, Christ forgives us and saves us.
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The Nave
Top right, between the arch of the presbytery and the first window, we find what remains of an older Judgement (XIV century). You can recognize Christ, the Apostles and the Virgin Mary.
Under the first arch, towards the presbytery, the figure of Santa Maria Maddalena (fourteenth century), portrayed with a jar in hand, alluding to the container for flavorings with which she went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. The pillars preserved remains of frescoes of the fifteenth century depicting saints.
The first pillar on the left, towards the presbytery, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with the crown on his head and the palm of martyrdom in his hand. The first pillar to the right, toward the entrance, San Bernardino of Siena. The Holy preached also to Albenga in 1418 and in 1431. Next to the front door, the image of St. Christopher (XIV century), a man of gigantic stature holding the Child Jesus on his shoulders. According to tradition, in fact, he would have deserved to traghettarlo beyond a river without recognizing it. Become increasingly heavy and interrogated by Christopher on his identity, the child would be revealed as the savior of the world. Saint Christopher was invoked against sudden death and for safety in travel; for this it was common practice in the Middle Ages represent him on the facades of churches or close the doors so that one could see the picture, invoking it could be sure to get to their destination safely.

The right nave
affresco absideIn the apse there are important frescoes including three figures of saints, just above the altar, one of the oldest pictorial evidence of the church (XIII century). The entire wall is occupied by a painting containing the Stories of San Biagio (XIV century). The painting, by an anonymous author, reflects the techniques of Tuscan school of the fourteenth century and has at its center the Holy Martyr Blaise, bishop of Sebaste, protector against sore throat. With his right hand he blesses and presents itself as a model and intercessor with God in our need.

 

 

The left nave
The Wall

On the wall, the oldest evidence of painting of St. George: three figures of the Holy Apostles and St. Christopher, now only partially legible. Just above there is a fifteenth-century fresco depicting the Saints Fabiano Pope, Sebastian and Rocco. This painting, completed by an inscription that has now disappeared, but of which we have documented evidence, seems to have been commissioned by the Prior of St. George with the inhabitants of the village of Campora in the year 1476, at the time of an epidemic, probably as a votive offering for the escaped contagion (the Saints Sebastian and Rocco are precisely invoked against epidemics and plagues).
Just beyond, a fresco of the fifteenth century depicting Saint Mary Magdalene carried to heaven by angels..navata sinistra

 

 

Apse
madonna con bambinoIt depicts an old altar dedicated to Our Lady. On the back wall there are the latest pictorial evidence of the church, dating back to the mid-sixteenth century. In the lunette above, the Assumption of Mary, with the disciples who find the empty tomb and the Apostle Thomas. Below, the Virgin enthroned with the Child Jesus who, with his finger over his mouth, is asking for silence and listening to his word. Musical angels are at the sides and at the foot of the throne. On the left, a military Saint, not easily identifiable, perhaps Arcadio, or Maurice, or the same Giorgio. On the right, the martyr St. Stephen, with pebble of his martyrdom placed on the head.

Text of Carlo Lanteri, photographs of Carlo Lanteri and Luciano Rosso

 

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