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LERICI CASTLE

In the Middle Ages, Lerici was a free port with no fortifications. In 1241 the Pisans, after defeating the Genoeses during the Battle of Giglio, occupied the port and built the castle and the “Villaggio pisano” (Pisan village). In 1256, the Pisans were beaten by the Florentines and, consequently, they had to give Lerici back. The Pisans, though, refused this decision and so a Genoese fleet attacked the village and the castle. Lerici, then, became part of the Genoese possessions. After the invention of the gunpowder (1340), all the fortifications had to be fixed and plastered. The entrance from Vico Pisani was closed and a three-level ravelin was built right in front of the Castle, but at the end of the 19th Century it was demolished. Afterwards, the castle was provided with a low guardrail to fire at the entering ships.

The castle of Lerici was, for centuries, a Genoese jail of maximum safety: numerous they were the prisoners of rank confined inside, and numerous the death sentences that were performed inside the castle, above all against rebellious from Corsica Island.
Francis I of France was imprisoned in this castle (1525)  and Andrea Doria hid here when the French fleet came to Lerici to catch him after he decided to serve Charles V of Spain (1528).

The medieval italian poet Francesco Petrarca spoke of the “slender tower of the castle of Lerici”, while the actual one is nearly wide of the preceding one. The pentagonal tower that we see today, decorated by whites and blacks hanging bows, contains another smaller tower, built by Pisa.

Attentively looking at the building fabrics, you can still see some windows archer, the shoe created in the overlooking side the Piazza San Giorgio (going up again to the interventions of the 1555), the primitive small door of entry, that was provided of bridge drawbridge.

Inside the castle, the there is a Chapel devoted to Saint Anastasia , a virgin killed together to other young Christians in the island of Palmaiola, near Piombino (Tuscany).

The chapel, decorated in Gothic-Genoese style, built with black and white stones, is an extraordinary example of medieval church inside a castle.

The chapel was probably erects from the Pisa, but when the Genoese regained the castle they reconstructed it, inserting characterizing decorative elements, as the two valuable bas-reliefs representatives the lamb with cross and with Genoa flag, this last completed with the Latin sentence PLEBS IANI MAGNOS REPRIMENS EST AGNUS IN AGNOS (the people in Genoa, repressing the powerful persons, it is lamb among the lambs, or that thay take the peace to the near people). This sentence refers popular revolution against the nobility of Gugliemo Boccanegra: all of this that was his was destroyed and also in the chapel the “damnatio memoriae” has been applied, for which was plastered and such it remained for numerous centuries. Only in 1930, during works of restauration in the castle, it made to emerge this sentence.

Above the entrance of the chapel, a headstone in Latin it brings a sentence in which the castle, speaking to the visitor, it tells the 1256 Genoese recapture and the consequent interventions for the castle to make surer.

Our wonderful castle is not only the historical symbol of the village, but also a museum that periodically hosts important exhibitions.
Until November 4th: Exhibition on mussel farming

Opening times
Open from tuesday to sunday (closed on monday – 25th December – 1st January)
11am – 1pm
2pm – 5pm

Free entry

THE PARISH CHURCH OF SAINT FRANCIS

Completed in 1636, this is the second church dedicated to Saint Francis – the first one, built in the 14th Century and demolished in 1632, was not big enough for the growing population of Lerici. A column of the first church is still visible in the parish. At the end of the 18th Century the church was enlarged and remodelled with the choir stall. The decorations on the ceiling date back to 1932 and were made by the local painter Luigi Agretti. They represent Sant’Erasmo, protecting of the sailors, that it appeases the storm, the glory of St. Francis and the miraculous recovery on the rock-clifves of the table of the so-called Madonna of Maralunga, from three fishermen of Lerici.

The marble façade was built in 1962. This church is home to important arrays of art. From the fourteenth-century crucifix, which is assumed to come from Santa Marta (Pisan Village), to two paintings by Fiasella – “S. Agostino” (1650-1660) and “Madonna con bambino e Santi Bernardino e Francesco” (1659). And also the “Visitazione di Maria a Santa Elisabetta” by Giovanni Carbone, pupil of the Flemish artist Van Dyck (1647), the “Assunzione della Vergine” by Giovanni Miel (1657), the Saints Lucia, Caterina in Alexandria and Cecilia, with their traditional symbols, of unknown painter of Tuscan school (1500) , a St. Giovanni Battista to the Jordan, work of the Ligurian Domenico Bocciardo, and the wooden Madonna by Anton Maria Maragliano.

It is of great importance the chapel devoted to the Madonna of Maralunga: the Virgin Mary is patron of Lerici, celebrated on March 25. According to the tradition, the valuable table, which represents two Virgins with child placed side by side, it was miraculously recovered by three fishermen in proximity of the promontory of Maralunga, in the 1480. In reality it appears that the work has been commissioned: in the picture these words are read “Colottus. q. Jacopelli et Petrus Dominicus Muttini T.F.1480”, that are the last names of the three discoverers and the initials of “testes fuerunt.” Subsequently, someone has painted in the picture, after the names of the discoverers, the word “invenerunt” (that’s “they found”). Following interventions of restauration, it has emerged that the original painted layer brought the letters “F.F”. that is “fecerunt facere.” The picture had probably been commissioned to a Tuscan painter, recommending that the cartiglio of the Madonna Bianca from Porto Venere that recites “Madre Mia ço che te piaxe me contenta purch’el pecatore del mal fare se penta” (century XIV), like the phrase of Lerici: “Madre mia io son cotento pur che lo pecator si penta”, in a more evolved Italian language (century XV). The meaning is the same: “Mother, I’m happy if the sinner provided that repents”
The Virgin Mary with the green dress almost exactly the Madonna of the Arena remembers, that, according to tradition, it was found by fishermen in San Terenzo beach.

 

THE ORATORY AND THE TOWER OF SAINT ROCH

Built “extra moenia” in 1287, this baroque church was dedicated to St Martin and St Christopher. In the 16th century Lerici was stricken by the plague. Once it ended, the population grew again and the church was widened with a tower to protect the ford. In 1524 it was named after Saint Roch. Discovered during recent restorations, the pedunculated, Templar cross inside the church confirms the military nature of this tower – it used to cover the paved street leading to the barbican (a defence fort).
Back in those days, notaries used to draw up their deed in a side corner of the church called “er canto” (the chant). Inside the church there is an oil on canvas painting by the Italian artist Casoni, the son-in-law of Domenico Fiasella, a well-known artist from Sarzana. This painting depicts the Holy Family between Saint Eligius and Saint Anthony the Great.

On the altar an oil on table represents the Saints Sebastiano, Rocco, as well as Martino and Cristoforo, saints which the church was originally devoted. Attributed by some historical ones of the art to Teramo Piaggio, the painting (XVI cent.) is valuable: clearly reorganized for being suited for the altar, probably it is the portion of a greater work.

In the altar to the left a non common work is places, painted on “ciappa”, that is the plate of blackboard, that represents the Virgo and the Saints Andrea and Rocco, of unknown author. It seems that the table come from the convent of the Agostinianis of Maralunga.

Observing the building works, you can see a templar cross of the type “croix fichée”, that has been open during the recent jobs of restauration, because before it had suffered the “damnatio memoriae”. The historical problem exists to understand as the cross “peduncolata”, typical of the Templaris, is found on the bell tower of St. Rocco chapel, that, according to the two headstones in façade, would result built in 1514 or in 1515, or with the money drawn by the sale of the trees of the ‘common bosca’ (local forest) of Camisano or with the money of the Bank of St. George. Probably on the channel a precedent tower of defense existed, situated to the outside of the medieval suburb.

 

PIAZZA MOTTINO AND THE PISAN VILLAGE

This little square was named after a family of men of letters, prelates and admirals in charge of the papal fleet. Back in those days, the sea came up to this point, and recently the area was filled with diggings from the “Tagliata”, the road leading to Maralunga, a place on the hills of Lerici. One corner of the square leads to the so-called “Pisan village” – the oldest part of the town. This name was given by the Pisans in 1241. What remains of this ancient village is a tower with a gate leading to the “carobio d’en fondo” (from the Latin “quadrivium”, “carobio” is a typical little Ligurian road). In order to conquer Lerici, Genoa had to destroy part of the walls, which were rebuilt afterwards – this is the reason why Lerici was known as “the village of the seven towers”.

In this square springals and cannons were casted and then loaded onto brigs sailing to Corsica. The Germans destroyed part of this village and in 1944 they built another square along the wharf.

Just departing from Piazza Mottino, it is possible to lose yourself, pleasantly, in the alleys of the most medieval Lerici: from there you can climb and reach the summit of the promontory and, therefore, the Castle of Lerici.

One of these road is “via del Ghetto”, so calles because in past it entertained the Jewish ghetto, contained among two railings disappeared today. A headstone to the entry of the slope remembers the history of it, tied up to the transfer of Jewish sefarditi that reached Lerici in the XVI century to be employed in activity as the founding, the workmanship of the fabrics and the trades. Numerous last names still testify today a Jewish origin, although has happened, during the centuries, a progressive integration with the local population. After the recovery of a Torah, placed in the walls of the house to the civic n. 1 of the street, are hypothesized that here the synagogue was found.

CA’ DORIA AND THE “CARPANETA” ROAD

The “Carpaneta” road starts from Piazza Garibaldi and goes up to the hills of Lerici. The etymology of this name is generally assumed to be from the Italian “carpini” (hornbeams) – a very common tree in this area. In the 15th and 16th Centuries, several houses were built along this road, and one of them became the summer residence of Andrea Doria, the Italian admiral of the Republic of Genoa. Here, the Italian condottiere decided to stop serving Francis I of France and side with Spain, as attested on the plaque: “D.O.M AND. AB AURIA HUIUS DOMUS HOSP. HIC EX GALLO FACTUS HISPANUS A MDXXVIII”. Andrea Doria moved here because he could easily reach the castle from his garden. And so he did when the French came to Lerici to imprison him. The French ships did not fire, however, because their cannons could not be elevated enough to hit the castle. And so the history of Europe changed.

Before being a “prince of the sea”, Andrea Doria was a hard and merciless captain of the troops of Genoa: he have had from the Genoese government the order to reduce the rebels from Corsica to the silence, because the war of Corsica was too much expensive. To send and to supply the Genoese troops in the island, Genoa used the base of Lerici, because the distance among Lerici and Capo Corso was inferior to that between this Island and Genoa. It is perhaps for this, that Andrea Doria purchased a house with garden in Lerici, in the street called Carpaneta, that brought on the necks and toward the fractions of Tellaro and La Serra, as well as toward Maralunga.

THE CHURCH OF SAINT MARTHA

This is the old church of the Pisan Village (1241), but it was not the only one – a much older one, dedicated to Saint George, was located right on the sea.

The church of Saint Marta is located in the heart of the “carobi” (the typical, little roads stretching between the houses), and it is easily reachable by entering the fortified gate in Piazza Mottino.

Nowadays Saint Marta is a fishermen’ property, so we know a little about the inside. However, the doorway, features a trabeation depicting the image of the Indra’s net on the shroud, around the top of the cross. It is thought that this Buddhist symbol was brought here by the Templars, who also reached the city of Petra, in Jordan. Another interesting symbol that links this area to Petra is the corn plant, which can be found in Volastra (Cinque Terre). What’s more, the same symbology was found in many villages around this area, such as Albenga, Prato, Sovana and Volterra.

The Canon Gio Batta Gonetta, in his book, with the title “Saggio istorico descrittivo della diocesi di Luni-Sarzana”, he writes: “Forse dal quinto secolo in poi, prima chiesa di Lerici, S. Marta sotto il di lei antico poggio, in riva al mare, ove quindi, in riguardevole accrescimento del paese, i Pisani costruivano Borgo Nuovo”. It means: perhaps, since the fifth century, the first church of Lerici was S. Marta, near to the sea, where the Pisanis built new village.

It’s possible that this tradition is linked to the portal that is recovered in the historical centre, in the narrow street then become Via Ambrogio Giacopello (a patriot from Lerici exiled dead in Marsiglia), portal that has perhaps suffered a damnatio memoriae in Napoleonic epoch.

The hypothesis of the Gonetta of a titled church to the Saint is not already believable in the V century, because traces of the cult of Saint Marta in Provence are had beginning from the 813/ 814. It seems that the church of Saint Marta has been destroyed from the Saracens in 1152, but tests don’t be had document them.

 

SAN TERENZO CASTLE

Built around a 12th century guard-tower, this castle was built by the people of San Terenzo themselves, and they still are very proud of it. It is also attested in an official document written the 29 of July 1588 and signed by the podestà Gregorio Calamandrini, who was in charge of registering the fortifications around the Gulf of La Spezia. As it was built during different periods, the fortification itself is a mix of different architectonical styles. The square tower is the oldest part of the castle – between the 14th and 15th century the first part of the walls was built, and then enlarged with the second, external part in the 16th century. The Republic of Genoa, then, decided to strengthen the walls and arm the castle with cannons to make it a defence fortification.

In 1605 the Republic of Genoa made a project with which has strengthened the whole defensive system of the Gulf, with the construction of new fortifications and the adjustment of the existing ones. Since then, the small castle of St. Terenzo, with its tower tall about 10 mt., set to almost 40 mt. on the level of the sea, has been submitted to defend the north sector of the bay, in help of the nearby and bigger castle of Lerici.

The castle of St. Terenzo had different origin in comparison to the castle of Lerici, but it contributes to make the this Gulf unique in the world: a bay contained by two castles, nowadays connected by a pleasant walk (about 2 km), but separated, in past, by inlets, beaches and promontories

At the beginning of last century, the castle of St. Terenzo has been turned into photoelectric station, garrisoned by military personnel, and then it was used, during the Second World war, by the German troops.

From the terraces of the castle you can enjoy breath-taking views of the Gulf of Poets. From time to time, the castle also hosts art and photography exhibitions.

Opening times

December: 8-9-22-23-24-29-30
January: 5-6
From 10.30am to 1.00pm  and from 2pm to 5pm

Ticket: 2Euro

To have more information and book guided tours: info@castellodisanterenzo.it – tel. +39.0187.622080

VILLA MAGNI: 16th Century

This villa was property of the Magni family and in the spring of 1822 it was rented by Percy Bisshe Shelley and his wife Mary – they lived here until the shipwreck in which the poet drowned. This dramatic episode, together with the frequent journeys of Lord Byron, gave birth to the myth of the Gulf of Poets.

Legend has it that it was built in the 16th Century and it was a convent. After the tragic death of Shelley, the villa became property of the Ollandinis, a family of marquises, and nowadays it is still a private property. On the façade there is a plaque with a quote by the Italian poetCeccardo Roccatagliata Ceccardi.

The villa, in past, it was isolated by the village of St. Terenzo and it could be reached only from the sea: the house was surrounded from a thick wood and the portico was to peak on the sea. The road which nowadays connects San Terenzo to Lerici was completed in the second half of XIX cent.: the Shelleys chose the house really for this, for its wild charm, to be more “ship” that “house”.

Mary Godwin Shelley, author of the masterpiece Frankenstein, wrote about the house: “Our house, Casa Magni, was close to this village of San Terenzo; the sea came up to the door, a steep hill sheltered it behind”. La hill behind is the hill of Marigola: belonging to the same ownership, in the past Villa Magni it was connected to Villa Marigola from shady and pleasant hilly paths, which Mary described in several letters. Mary still writes: “… The scene was indeed of unimaginable beauty. The bue extent of waters the almost landlocked bay, the near castle of Lerici shutting it in to the east, and distant Portovenere to the west ; the various forms of the precipitous rocks that bound to the beach, over which there was only a winding rugged foothpath towards Lerici and none on the other side”.

CHURCH OF SAINT MARY OF THE ASSUMPTION

Its architectural structure dates back to 1619, but the church was built on a 13th Century place of worship. It features a Latin-cross plan, with two chapels at the sides. The one on the left is dedicated to “Nostra Signora dell’Arena” and features a beautiful painting of the Virgin Mary – legend has it that it was found in the sea at the end of the 15th Century, and nowadays it’s still venerated by the locals.

Above the altars, in the central nave, it features paintings by Paolo Gerolamo Piola and Giovanni Battista Carlone, two Italian artists. Moreover, next to the major altar there is a prestigious sculpture by Domenico Gar (1528). The marmoreal bas-relief represents Saint Fabiano, Saint Rocco and Saint Sebastiano, protectors against the pestilences: it was probably commissioned following the tragic epidemics that struck the zone in the first years of the XVI century. According to some studies, to the three saints a small chapel was also devoted, today disappeared, situated out of the center of St. Terenzo, on the hill of Marigola: to this chapel it makes reference Mons. Peruzzi, in the apostolic visit of the 1584. He also visited the church of Saint Maria and wrote about it that the inhabitants of St. Terenzo provided, through taxes payed by the breadwinners, to support the local clergy, in exchange for the right to choose their own priest. This right has been practiced up to the first half of XX century, period which goes up again the clock of the bell tower.

This church was completely restored in 1975.

THE SERENELLA: 19th century

For thirty-seven years, the “Serenella” was the buen retiro of the local writer Paolo Mantegazza. Mantegazza was a doctor, a patriot, a politician, and a writer – but, most of all, his aim was to spread hygiene education. He lived here from 1873 until his death – in 1910. He is buried in the local cemetery. Professor at the University of Pisa and fervent Darwinian, Mantegazza was the first professor to hold the chair of anthropology in Florence.

In 1905, the Lerici municipality awarded him with the honorary citizenship, and named a street after him.
Famous the eulogy of the playwright Sem Benelli, who sojourned in the estate of Villa Marigola: thanks to this eulogy, our Gulf is still called “the Poets’ Gulf.”
“Blessed you, Poet of the science, that rested in peace in the Gulf of the Poets. Blessed you, tenants of this Gulf, that have found a man that will worthily welcome the shades of the great visitors….”

Even more suggestive the words with which same Mantegazza has described the Bay: “St. Terenzo is a nest hidden among two blue oceans, that of the sky and that of the sea; any bath there is more poetic, more coolness, more adamant; it is as to plunge in the liquid sapphire. The air is never too much warm in summer, neither never cold in the winter; it is a rotation of coolness warmths and lukewarm coolness that it enchants, that it tickles, that it falls in love.”

SIGHTING TOWER: 12th Century

The old, square sighting tower is still visible in the heart of the historical center, at the end of the fisrt part of a road called “via tra la Torre”. The Castle of San Terenzo was built around a similar sighting tower. The castle is today the construction that has maintained more intact the native aspect, but the area around goes back to the medieval period: from the whole area adjacent to the castle, to the houses around Via Trogu and Via Tra la Torre (which means “street near the tower”).

It’s possible that other towers also existed, like in Lerici and Tellaro, places among typical “tower-houses.”

Today St. Terenzo extends until over Villa Magni, famous thanks the permanence of Percy and Mary Shelley in 1922; in the past the actual church of S. Maria it constituted the most external limit of the ancient inhabited area. The coastal road didn’t exist, up to the second half XIX cent., and St. Terenzo was a tangled maze of narrow streets, between tall houses and holds, to peak on the bluff.

A small stream, called Portiolo (or Portiola), identified with the channel that still flows under Via XX Settembre, it crossed the suburb.

Unfortunately the tragedy of the burst of the fortress of Falconara (28 September 1922), placed just on the hill over the village, further to have provoked hundreds of corpses and homeless, have irremediably damaged most ancient buildings.

THE CHURCH OF SAINT GEORGE

Built between 1564 and 1584, the church of Saint George was a fortification. In 1618 it was enlarged and remodelled with the vestry, the arches dividing the nave and the vault.

The rectangular structure features a protruding, semi-circular apse and a circular bell tower with three bells (1812). The white, Carrara-marble portal is decorated with two volutes featuring a cornucopia and a marble bas-relief depicting Saint George – the Christian martyr who triumphed over the dragon.

The inside of the church consists of three naves, separated by two, octagonal, black local-stone columns supporting the barrel vault at the center and the cross vaults at the sides. The floor is made of lozenge, white-and-grey marble.

Built at the beginning of 1843, the choir area hosts an organ made by Nicomede Agati, a well-known organ maker from Pistoia (Tuscany).

THE TALE OF THE OCTOPUS

The legend written on the marble plaque next to the church was created after several attempted incursions by pirates in the 17th century. The people from Tellaro, though, always managed to repel the enemies thanks to their courage and valor. This version was handed down by the oral tradition, and it is not the only one. Many writers wrote about the tale of the octopus. Here you can read the very appreciated words of D. H. Lawrence – on December 18th 1913, he wrote a letter to W. E. Hopkin saying:

[…] Our village is Tellaro. It grows sheer out of the rocks of the sea, a sea-robber’s nest of 200 souls. The church is over the water. There is a tale that once in the night the church bell rang – and rang again. The people got up in terror — the bell rang mysteriously. Then it was found that the bell rope had fallen over the edge of the cliff m among the rocks, and an octopus had got hold of the end, and was drawing it. It is quite possible.

The men go fishing for the octopus with a white bait and a long spear. They get quite big ones, six or seven pounds in weight sometimes — and you never saw anything so fiendishly ugly. But they are good to eat.”

THE “SOTO-RIA” GALLERY

An eighteenth-century, wrought-iron gate leads to the “soto-ria” gallery. It is 70 metres long and 2.20 metres wide, and it features a geometrical pavement made of different, sandy-shore stones and a 2.95-metre barrel vault. This gallery is what remains of the covered curtain built in the 14th Century by the locals and the houses right above it create a frontage overlooking the sea.
The gallery is located along the parapet walk connecting a squared tower (demolished after the Second World War), the round tower of the Saint George church (located “en zimo ar foso”, i.e. on top of the moat) and the oratory of Saint Mary. It was originally built as a defence against the constant incursions of the Saracens, the Catalans and the local raiders who had overrun our sea until the 19
th Century. Thanks to the big windows overlooking the sea, it was easy to defend the village against the enemies with all the offensive means of the time, such as boiling oil.

COMMUNAL WASHHOUSES

Fed by the spring waters of “capoàigua” (“the beginning of the spring”), these washhouses had always had an important social role in the community. Here, women of any age and social background met and did the washing or washed the wool during the sheep shearing period. These public washhouses were built using two natural cavities covered with mortar and stones and closed by a wall of 50 cm height, with a marble plate on top. The marble plate was 8.50 meters long and 55 cm wide.

The water was gathered from the little canal below, then flowed from one basin to another and ended up into the sea. Next to this structure there was also a fountain fed by the spring waters of “capoaigua” through terracotta waterworks. Every day women walked here with terracotta jars on their heads or with the typical “lavézi” (large pots made of copper) to get their own water.

CHURCH ORATORY OF SANTA MARIA – TELLARO.

The Church oratory of Santa Maria was the first center of religious workship in Tellaro.

Of this church there ore documented records that date back to 1552, of course the church was to be much older.

The village developed towards 1350, and it is unthinkable that for every act of workship should go in Barbazzano.

Probably this place, along with the Church of Saint Georg, was the Oratory of the Confraternita dei Battuti of Santa Maria, that was donated to Confraternita in 1630 and it was owned by the Genoese Senate.

MARINA GATE

Until the end of the 18th Century, this gate was the only point of access to the walled village. It was located between the church of Saint George and the beginning of the “soto-ria” path, which stretched along the walls and led to the Oratory of Saint Mary of the Assumption.
This gate used to be locked at sunset and opened again in the morning. At night, the sentries guarded the village from the bell-tower.