Santa Caterina in Finalborgo
(14th – 19th century)
From the Dominican convent to the contemporary cultural centre in the medieval town of the Del Carretto
The Dominican convent and the church dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alessandria were founded during the second half of the 14th century by the Del Carretto marquises as the main area of devotion of the family.
Only the bell tower remains from the medieval church of which the steeple that was recently restored characterizes the “skyline” of Finalborgo.
Within the church, that is now used as an auditorium, the chapel of Saint Mary of the Olivieri holds an important cycle of frescoes of the 1300s with scenes of the “Life of the Virgin and Jesus”.
The two renaissance cloisters with elegant Finale stone columns and capitals were built by the church in the last decade of the 15th century.
After the suppression of the convent in 1862, the convent was turned into a prison and hosted among its prisoners also the socialist anarchists of the 1898 revolts of Milan.
After a radical restoration, the monumental complex of Saint Catherine in Finalborgo became an important cultural centre with the realisation of the auditorium and of a large space for exhibitions in the “Oratorio dei Disciplinanti”. Moreover, around the cloisters there are the quarters of the Archaeological Museum of the Finale and the library.
MORE INFORMATION – Convent of Santa Caterina in Finalborgo
The church and the Dominican convent of Saint Catherine in Fianlborgo were founded in 1359 by order of the local noble family, the marquises Del Carretto, that chose it to be their final resting place. The convent complex rose close to the western walls of the town of Finale on the margin of the medieval town.
Since its foundation the convent was entrusted to the Dominicans, a religious mendicant order that was founded in 1206 by the Spaniard Domenico Guzman.
The medieval church presented its apse facing the town while the façade coincided with the walls of the town. The church had two Finale stone portals to access inside that opened on the side facing the square and are now still used as accesses to the auditorium.
The main portal, arched with columns with decorated capitals, was denominated “the woman’s portal” while the minor portal, with a fresco depicting the Virgin in its bezel, was denominated “of the men”.
Inside, the medieval church was originally divided into three naves by two rows of Finale stone columns with capitals while in the apse the presbytery was flanked by two lateral chapels aligned on the back wall. In the chapel on the right of the high altar, known as the chapel of Saint Mary of the Oliveri, an important cycle of frescos is preserved with the “Stories of Mary and Jesus” painted at the end of the 14th century by at least two artists, probably from the Tuscan school.
At the end of the 15th century, due to the action of the marquis’ family and of Carlo Doemico Del Carretto, who became cardinal of Finale in 1505, two wide cloisters were constructed, a perfect example of renaissance architecture of Lombard derivation, around which the various rooms of the convent were built. On the first floor the dormitory of the monks was served by long corridors on which the doors opened to cells decorated with frescos that can still be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Finale.
After the Napoleonic period and the return of the power of the Savoia, in 1826 a radical transformation was decided for the medieval church and the construction of a new building of cult with a single hall with the demolition of part of the medieval columns and the apse being moved towards the walls. The new church didn’t live long: indeed, in 1864 the convent was suppressed and the entire complex was turned into a prison. The rich heritage of paintings and marbles of the Dominican church, linked to the devotion of the Del Carretto family and of the main Finale families, after the suppression of the religious orders in the 1800s, ended up in the parish of San Biagio in Finalborgo and in various museums in Liguria and abroad.
The medieval bell tower, whose original steeple fell during the 1887 earthquake, was recently rebuilt in corten steel and the narrow and dark prison cells were restored and now can be visited from the museum.
Starting from the 1970s the restoration of the convent spaces brought to the creation of one of the most significant cultural centres of western Liguria, including the auditorium in the ex-church, the Archaeological museum of Finale, the public library and, in the wing on the square close to the walls, the exhibition area known as the “Oratorio dei Disciplinanti”.
HOW TO REACH
CONVENT OF SANTA CATERINA
How to reach the site
Fianlborgo can be reached by car following the main roads and outside the walls of the historic centre there are plenty of parking spaces. It is also linked by bus to Finalmarina and to the train station.
Cloisters are open and the access is free during the Aperture time of the Archaeological Museum or the Cafè Nonunomeno.
You can visit the Archaeological Museum of Finale with the following hours:
WINTER OPENING HOURS (September-June)
Tuesday – Sunday: 9.00-12.00; 14.30-17.00
PANDEMIC EMERGENCY OPENING HOURS 2021 (May-June 2021)
Tuesday – Friday: 10.00-12.00; 14.30-17.00
Saturday: Opened only for guided tours on mandatory reservation: first visit 9.15 am, second visit 10.30 am ( Contact Museo Archeologico del Finale at +39.019.690020 during the opening time)
Sunday – Monday: CLOSED
SUMMER OPENING HOURS (July-August)
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00-12.00; 16.00-19.00
Entrance Ticket for Museo Archeologico del Finale:
Full: € 5.00
Reduced: € 3.00 (under 16, over 65, university students with ID, members Touring Club Italiano, owner Tourist Card Finale Ligure, visitors of grotte di Toirano or Borgio Verezzi, visitators of Caverna delle Arene Candide)
Family Ticket: € 10.00 (2 Adults + Children under 12)
Groups: € 2.00 (per person, minimum 10 people)
Tour with guide for groups on request: € 2.00 (per person, minimum 10 people)
School workshops and guided tour on request
Museo Archeologico del Finale
Calendar of guided visits of the museum on demand