Museo di Sant’Agostino – Museum of St. Augustine, Genoa
Phone: +39 (0)10 2511263
Located in the heart of Genoa, the Museo di Sant’Agostino (Museum of Saint Augustine) is an art museum mostly focused on sculpture, painting, and applied arts from the early Middle Ages to the 18th century.
The museum is housed in the former monastery of Saint Augustine, originally built around 1260, and enlarged in the 16th century.
The complex which houses the museum comprises a church (deconsecrated in 1798 and now converted into an auditorium), and various spaces arranged around two cloisters, one of which presents a quite unconventional triangular footprint.
The former monastery was badly damaged during World War II and restored from 1977 to 1992 after a design by Italian architectural practice Albini Helg Piva.
In designing the new museum, the architects skillfully combined the preexisting building with new structures mostly made in black steel, stone, and glass.
View of the triangular cloister of the Museum of Saint Agostino, dating to the 13th century; photo © Inexhibit
View of the square cloister, dating to the 16th century; photo © Inexhibit
The stepped ramp which connects the first and the second floor of the museum; photo © Inexhibit
Collection and permanent exhibition
As anticipated, the collection of the Museo di Sant’Agostino comprises sculptures, architectural decorations, paintings, and objects of applied arts dating from the 10th century to the 18th century. The museum does not hold many works by internationally-renowned artists, except notable sculptures by Giovanni Pisano and Pierre Puget, and it is mostly focused on artists native of, or once based in the city of Genoa and the region Liguria; that said, the collection features highly remarkable and original artworks. Genoa was indeed one of the leading maritime powers of Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; therefore, many of the works presented show surprising connections and cross-influences between Genoa and other regions of the Mediterranean area, particularly Spain and southern France.
The ground floor accommodates a small exhibition of early medieval sculptures and decorations, as well as all the visitor service spaces.
Chronologically arranged, the galleries on the first and second floors feature the most important pieces on view.
The exhibition on the first floor comprises decorated architectural elements – including capitals, columns, portals, and friezes -, sculptures, and religious objects roughly dating from the 13th to the 15th century and mostly coming from former churches and monasteries located in Genoa and its surroundings.
Notable pieces on view include the funerary monument of Simone Boccanegra Doge of Genoa (1363, unknown artist), and the funerary monument of Margaret of Brabant by Giovanni Pisano (ca. 1315).
On the second floor, artworks dating from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century – mostly sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and architectural decorations – are on display, including notable sculptural works by Guglielmo della Porta (David, ca. 1515) and Pierre Puget, and paintings by Barnaba da Modena (Virgin Mary with Saint Catherine and Saint San Nicholas, ca. 1380), and Luca Cambiaso.
Yet, the most intriguing pieces on show are possibly those by less-known or even unknown artists, such as an exceptional bust of an unknown Italian nobleman dating to the 16th century, some beautiful wooden statues dating back to the Middle Ages, and a peculiar series of oil paintings on slate rock, including an impressive Last Supper, painted in 1622 by Giulio Benso.
Along with its permanent exhibition, the Museo of Sant’Agostino also features special exhibitions and educational programs, particularly aimed at children and schools; the museum includes a small bookshop and a (quite unimpressive) cafeteria.
There is a subway station (Stazione Sarzano/ Sant’Agostino) just in front of the museum, which is about a ten-minute walk from the Genoa Cathedral, the Aquarium, and the old port district, and about 20 minutes by taxi from the cruise terminal.
Just a piece of advice, because of their large windows, some rooms of the museum can be pretty hot in summer; therefore, if you visit the Museo di Sant’Agostino in July or August, we suggest doing it in the morning, preferably.
View of the galleries on the first floor; photo © Inexhibit
Giovanni Pisano, the funerary monument of Margaret of Brabant (ca. 1315); photo courtesy of Musei di Genova
Funerary monument of Simone Boccanegra (1363); photo © Inexhibit
View of the main exhibition hall on the second floor with two column-bearing lions in the foreground; photo © Inexhibit
Giulio Benso, The Last Supper, 1622, oil on slate rock; photo © Inexhibit
A Spanish ceramic bowl dating to the 12th or 13th century; © Inexhibit
In the foreground, Bust of a man in armor, unknown artist, 16th century; © Inexhibit
Painting gallery on the second floor; © Inexhibit
Cover image: view of the first-floor gallery of the Museum of Saint Agostino in Genoa; © Inexhibit
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