Cattedrale di San Francesco

Prevalent in Bernardo Buontalenti’s plan for the new city of Livorno were works of a military nature and those linked to development of the port structures. However, at the end of the 16th century work began to provide Livorno with a new parade ground and a “new church”, which closed one side of the piazza. The works were initially based on Buontalenti’s plan but this soon underwent modifications. Between the end of the 16th century and the early years of the 17th, building work on the church continued under the direction of Alessandro Pieroni and Antonio Cantagallina, and in the first decade of the 17th century the church was consecrated and dedicated to Saint Francis. Both the piazza and the church were seriously damaged in 1944 during the bombings and were rebuilt immediately after the war: the piazza has retained very little of its former order but the church was rebuilt according to the original structure and furnishings. The belltower, begun in 1817 replacing the old bell gable, was also bombed, and rebuilt in the 1950s. The church plan is in the shape of a Latin cross with the addition of two side chapels: the Holy Sacrament, on which work began in 1716 to the design of Giovanni del Fantasia; and the Madonna Chapel, 1727, which originally had a very valuable carved and gilded wooden ceiling made between 1610 and 1614. The seven paintings set inside the ceiling were saved from the bombings and relocated in a simpler structure, which however recreates the original division of space. Between 1619 and 1623 Jacopo Ligozzi, Domenico Cresti known as Passignano, and Jacopo Chimenti known as Empoli, painted three large pictures depicting Saint Francis Receiving the Christ Child from the Virgin, The Assumption of the Madonna, and The Triumph of Saint Julia. They were also entrusted with painting four smaller canvases depicting saints connected with the city, the Granducal family or the Cathedral itself: Saints Cosmas and Damian, St Lawrence and St Sextus the Pope, the Glory of St Sebastian, The Assumption of St Vigilia. On the transept walls are two marble choir lofts supported by four marble corbels, which have been rebuilt with stucco additions. The apse was modified during the postwar rebuilding work and has an altar at the centre made from mixed types of marble, also made to the original design. The wooden choir from 1604 was transferred to the church of Santa Caterina in 1763. In the Baptistry chapel, built in 1756, is a baptismal font bearing the coat of arms of Biagio Pignatta, the friend and counsellor of Ferdinando I. His generosity provided the pulpit and the last altar on the left wall, rebuilt using the original materials; the painting depicting the Madonna in Glory with Saints Gregory, Benedict, Stephen and Francis, was painted for this altar and is attributed to the Sienese Pietro Sorri. Opposite this is the altar placed there by Bernardo Borromei, the city’s first stipendiary gonfalonier, for which the Assumption of the Virgin was painted, also attributed to Sorri. On the right wall of the nave is the canvas by Francesco Curradi portraying the Crucifix with Angels and Saints Theresa of Avila, Francis Xavier, Isidore the Farm-Servant, Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri, from around 1622. This is a highly devotional work in commemoration of the activity of the leading figures of the Counter-reform. The works by the Livornese Tommaso Gazzarrini, who painted three pictures for the Madonna chapel, are very interesting: The Holy Family rests during the Flight into Egypt, The Institution of the Eucharist and Jesus appears to St Margaret Alacoque. In 1834 he also painted the Translation of the Body of St Julia to Brescia, situated to the left of the main altar. Opposite is the episode showing St Francis Resuscitating a Drowned Man at Narni, painted in 1832 by Giuseppe Bezzuoli.