Church and convent of San Domenico


On today's Piazza S. Domenico there are building structures that incorporate the remains of the settlement of the preaching friars, founded according to tradition by Domenico di Guzman himself (1170-1221), but documented only starting from 1287 and suppressed by the French government in 1805.

Inside the Dominican complex, built in the district of S. Siro and leaning against the city walls, stood the medieval church, still described in the original structure and in the interior by the apostolic visitor Nicolò Mascardi in 1585. With three naves, facing east , had four entrances: two from the internal cloister for the friars and two from the north side for the faithful, along the current Via al Centa , where a fourteenth-century portal with a pointed arch and a fresco with the figures of saints belonging to the Order brought to light and restored in 2009: the founder S. Domenico, the blessed Guido Maramaldi from Naples (+1391) and S. Margherita of Hungary (1242-1270).

In the first half of the seventeenth century the plan of the church underwent radical changes: the high altar was moved to the west, towards the walls; at the head of the western nave a rose window was opened and two octagonal lanterns (one of which survives) were raised to give light to the presbytery, while to the east the new entrance portal was opened flanked by the shafts of two granite columns (reused, with seventeenth-century stucco capitals) that still dominate the scenography of Piazza S. Domenico; a new choir was added in 1653 to skirt the west section of the walls.

For the city of Albenga, the convent of the Friars Preachers was a center of faith and culture: in addition to the convent library, the treasury and the archives of the Municipality were kept; from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century various Provincial Chapters were celebrated there and they succeeded in preaching or holding Chairs of Theology Fathers coming from the convents of Piedmont and Lombardy. In the century XVI the Father Gio. Giacomo Salomonio worked there as an expert and scholar of Incaunian antiquities.

The noble families favored the convent of legacies and donations and inside the church they had altars and tombs built. In addition to the main altar dedicated to San Domenico (on which the Marquis family exercised the patronage), twelve were the secondary ones distributed on all the perimeter walls, variously named and founded by the richest Albenganese families: S. Matteo (Bernissone); S. Sebastiano (Bemonte); S. Tommaso d'Aquino (Lavagno); S. Silvestro (Silvestri); St. Catherine of Siena; Most Holy Crucifix; Rosario (Morelli); SS. Giacomo and Filippo (Giorgi); St. Peter Martyr; S. Vincenzo Ferrer (Ricci); S. Orsola (Cepolla); and S. Marta (d'Aste).

The bell tower, built or rebuilt in 1389, after the earthquake of 1887 was amputated of the three-mullioned floor; its structure can be identified among the buildings that overlook Piazza S. Domenico. In the sacristy, in what remains of the cloister and in other rooms of the convent, there are fourteenth-sixteenth-century frescoes with figures of Dominican saints. Until 1703 inside the cloister, of which the arches are still visible, stood a cypress tree planted, according to tradition, by the founder of the Order himself.

Worthy of note is the fact that the two founders of the first Dominican convent in Milan, that of Sant'Eustorgio, dating back to 1220, were Giacomo de Ariboldis from Monza and Robaldo di Albenga: in 1219 both had received the Dominican habit from St. Dominic in Bologna, where they were studying, and by him they were sent to Milan to found the convent of Sant'Eustorgio.