Exhibition

By origin and function, the approx. fifty exhibits follow three different courses:
the close link between municipal political institutions and the Cathedral; the special cult of St. John the Baptist as patron of the city; and the need for worship and celebration, ensured by the Chapter of Canons.
This triple origin and function explain the different ownership of the pieces, respectively belonging to the Municipality of Genoa, the Protettoria of the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, and the Chapter of the Metropolitan Church.
Some of these documents are veritable “monuments” to the history of the city. First of all, the so-called Sacred Basin is displayed on its own in the first exhibition room.
Already in Genoa back in the 12th century, it was long thought to be emerald and was celebrated for centuries as a relic of the Last Supper. The Cross of the Zaccarias, Byzantine reliquary of the True Cross sparkling with gold and gems, whose story has crossed the centuries uninterrupted: since the 8th century, when it was commissioned by a member of the imperial court; through the 13th century, when it was rebuilt by an archbishop of Ephesus; to the 14th century, when it became the property of the Genoese, who then left it to the Municipality for the blessing of the doges of Genoa; and up until today.
The exhibition continues with the Ark of the “Barbarossa” (12th century), a Romanesque reliquary embossed with vivid stories of the Baptist underlined by gilt and gems, as well as the great processional Ark for the relics of John the Baptist (15th century), one of the masterpieces of European late-Gothic jewellery, designed in the shape of a cathedral and richly decorated with scenes from the life of the Baptist in partially gilded silver, embellished with enamelled drafts. Further, the Chalcedony plate, an amazing artefact dating from the Roman Empire, decorated with a golden head of the Precursor and en ronde enamel bosse by one of the princes of the house of Valois in 15th-century Paris; it was donated to the Cathedral by Innocent VIII Cybo, Pope of Genoese origin, who had inherited it from Jean Balue, the French cardinal who had been in close contact with the French Valois, Berry and Burgundy.
The plate has been conveniently placed in the backlight, thus enhancing the transition from the typical white-bluish colour in the diffused light to a magical reddish colour, which can only be perceived when the hard stone is hit by the light.
Some of the most significant post-medieval pieces include: the ash cabinet, produced in Florence in the late 16th century, a profane jewel made in the Grand Ducal workshops with beautiful cut glass, polychrome marble inlays, stones and enamels; the great processional ark of Corpus Christi, perfect example of the skills of the Genoese silversmiths of the second half of the 16th century; the altar frontals (particularly rich and grandiose are the ones by Melchior Suez in 1599, with four magnificent silver statues of the Evangelists, and the “Madonna” by a silversmith of the early 18th century) ; finally, the life-sized statue of Our Lady Immaculate, embossed by sculptor Francesco Maria Schiaffino as requested by the citizens who wanted to offer it as a gift to the Doge Gio. Francesco II Brignole-Sale in recognition of his role in 1746, during the popular uprising that led to the liberation of Genoa from the occupation of the Austrian troops.
The exhibition ends in the fourth circular room, with silverware between the 18th-20th centuries: chalices, monstrances, crosses, rings and other pieces, produced not only in Genoa, many of which were donated to the Treasure by popes (Pius IX, Leo XIII, Benedict XV) and cardinals.

  • Exhibition hall
  • Exhibition hall