The Church of San Lorenzo in Varigotti
6th/7th – 16th century
A medieval church suspended between sea, sky and rock over an ancient port.
The church of San Lorenzo in Varigotti dominates, from above, a natural harbour that is protected by the Crena promontory that overlooks the sea. This bay for centuries, currently known as the “baia dei Saraceni” (The Saracens Bay), offered shelter to the ships that sailed the Mediterranean routes.
It’s a part of the coastline, dominated by steep mountains, in which suggestions linked to a sea landscape, sky and rock merge with historic secular long events.
MORE INFORMATION – The Church of San Lorenzo
The church of San Lorenzo in Varigotti rose on an artificial terracing built on a steep mountain slope that dominates the natural bay. During the 6th – 7th century this area was occupied by burials within amphorae, which were from the Mediterranean, or, instead of the amphorae, tiles were used for the burials. A grey marble fragment with an inscription, dated to the 6th – 7th century, was discovered in the church. The inscription carries the name of the deceased inscribed: Anatolio.
Part of the early-medieval church is the Greek white marble sarcophagus that was discovered in fragments within the church walls and is currently exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Finale in Finalborgo. It was a 4th century roman sarcophagus, decorated with a wavy ‘strigillated’ decoration and the posterior side was reworked in the second half of the 8th century with cross fleury that were united by weaved wicker rings, a typical Lombardic sculpture motif.
In 1127, the church of San Lorenzo was donated by Ottone, bishop of Albenga, to the Benedictine monastery of Sant’Onorato on the island of Lérins, in Provence, donation that was confirmed by the marquis Bonifacio del Vasto and his wife Agnese.
The ownership of the Provençal monastery however didn’t last long: a few years later the church was included among the parishes that were part of the church of Finale.
The current building dates back to the 15th century. It has only one hall that has two portals that are set on the southern side facing the sea. In front of the small rectangular apse, set in the floor, there was the so-called “abbots tomb”. In the open space on the side of the church there was the cemetery, where those who died of the plague, that in the 1300s spread and devastated Finale and the whole of Europe, were buried.
In 1585, the apostolic visitor Nicolò Mascardi saw that the now old church of San Lorenzo was too inconvenient for the majority of the population and the next year the “care of souls” was moved to the oratory of Sant’Antonio, close to the beach, on the other side of the bay. The new parish church was now in a more central position in relation to the town of Varigotti. It was built on the beach on the western side of the bay where the various streets had evolved on the surrounding slopes, facing the sea.
HOW TO REACH
CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO IN VARIGOTTI
How to reach the site
The church can be reached on foot by following the path that starts from the town of Varigotti from a branch of the Via Aurelia road.
Bookings for tours are available as part of the “Open door Open art” Project endorsed by MUDIF.
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00-14.00
The visit is organized by the “Amici di San Lorenzo” Association.
Entrance on free offer
Guided tour during the weekdays on request
Calendar of visits