That’s right, the church is inconspicuous from the outside, but inside is extremely richly decorated and it houses two works by the Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens. But let’s start from the very beginning:
Its name is the Church of Saints Ambrose and Andrew. It is located at Piazza Matteotti 3, right next to Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale (I wrote about it here). The first chapel built in this place came from the 6th century (!) In the 16th century, the church passed into the hands of the Jesuits and was given a second (additional) name: Church of Jesus. The current structure dates back to the 17th century and is in the Baroque style. Then, in the 19th century, the Saint Andrew appellation was added.
The church has richly decorated interiors. Colorful marble floors, numerous frescoes, and gilded decorations attract attention. The frescoes decorating the temple are the work of some of the most important representatives of the Genoese Baroque. In turn, among the marble decorations on the floor, the coat of arms of the Pallavicino family, a powerful patrician family who were associated with this church.
First of all: how is it possible that Rubens’s paintings are here? Well, the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century was the period of the greatest splendor and wealth of the Republic of Genoa. Local oligarchs accumulated endless fortunes, which they spent by constructing new palaces and ordering paintings from the most fashionable painters of that period. That was also the case.
The main altar was commissioned from Rubens by Marcello Pallavicino. The notarial deed relating to this order details the subject matter and how the artist was expected to depict the biblical scene. The painting represents “The Circumcision of Christ”.
On the side altar, there is another painting by Rubens. It’s “The Miracles of St. Ignatius.” Here again, the Pallavicino family had the greatest importance, as they ordered this painting for their chapel located in this church.
Peter Paul Rubens, during his stay in Genoa, was fascinated by its architecture. So much so that the most beautiful of its buildings (or those that made the greatest impression on him) were presented by him in a collection of engravings entitled “Palaces of Genoa“. Among the palaces presented in Rubens’ collection, there is also a description, facade, and cross-section of the church of St. Ambrose.
Practical information about the church
I recommend visiting this church. First of all, because it’s a great opportunity to see, just like that, two paintings by Rubens… and then also for free 🙂 Important note! The church is open from 7.00-13.00 and 16.00-19.00, on Mondays from 16.00-19.00. You cannot visit the church during Holy Mass or the rosary. Information about mass and rosary times can be found on the church website here.