Finding the Catholic Faith in Livorno
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be made a Saint by the Catholic Church. It was during her stay in Livorno in 1803 that she first became close to the Catholic faith.
Born 28 August 1774 in New York, Elizabeth Bayley had a comfortable life in an affluent family, and at the age of 20 she married the wealthy young William Magee Seton (1768-1803). The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous, but within a few years William’s family business began to fail, and he himself became ill.
In 1803 the Setons, with their eldest daughter, decided to come to Italy in an attempt to improve William’s health. Arriving in Livorno they were obliged to spend a month in quarantine in the cold stone lazzaretto of San Jacopo because of an outbreak of yellow fever in New York. William died of tuberculosis just two weeks after leaving the quarantine, in Pisa, on December 27th 1803. He was buried in the old English cemetery in Via Verdi, Livorno.
Livorno’s original cathedral (or Duomo), in Piazza Grande, was designed by Alessandro Pieroni and built by Cantagallina. It was completed in 1606, dedicated to St Francis of Assisi. Sadly, the original building was completely destroyed by bombings in 1943. The modern-day reconstruction was completed in 1952 and is a reproduction of the original.
Originally dedicated to Saint Andrew by the Scottish Presbyterian community living in Livorno in the 19th century, the church now belongs to the Italian Waldensian church (Valdese in Italian), a Methodist related Protestant church. The building dates from the mid-19th century and was only allowed by the Italian Catholic church on the condition that it did not look like a church - hence its rather unusual appearance. It was designed by the Scottish architect, Rumball, and reflects the neo-Gothic taste that was fashionable at the time in Scotland.
The Church of Saint George was completed in 1844 for the Anglican community living in Livorno at that time. It was designed by local architect Angiolo Della Valle in the neo-Classical style. Today it belongs to the Misericordia of Livorno and is now often used for Orthodox mass serving the local Romanian population.
Via Verdi, (in the Misericordia grounds, opposite the English Cemetery).
In the historic Venezia quarter, just across from Piazza Luogo Pio (now a large car park) in Piazza Anita Garibaldi is San Ferdinando, built for the Trinity Fathers who came to Livorno from France in 1653. The building was consacrated in 1717. The church displays a number of different architectural styles and contains some fine marble sculptures by Giovanni Baratta (1670-1747) (liberated slaves). It is sometimes used as a venue for concerts of classical music and choirs.
Piazza Anita Garibaldi 1, tel. +(39) 0586 888541
Via della Madonna. The Armenian community was already quite numerous in Livorno in the early 17th century and became well-integrated with the local community. The facade of their church is the most tangible remaining testimony of their presence in the city, while the actual church is no longer in use. It was built by Giovanni del Fantasia and financed by a group of Armenian merchants.
The church was built in 1837 by order of Leopoldo II, at the time when the nearby seminary was constructed. An earlier and smaller church dedicated to Sant'Andrea had been built near here, on the edge of a cemetery, in the early 19th century following an epidemic of yellow fever in Livorno.
Dedicated to Saint Catherine, but also know as the church of the Domenicani after the Domenican friars who founded it, this uncompleted church stands in Piazza dei Domenicani in the Venezia district of Livorno. It was founded in 1720 and inaugurated in 1755. It was designed by Giovanni del Fantasia who had to abandon the work in order to supervise the building of the Chapel dedicated to the Madonna in the Sanctuary of Montenero. Its octagonal design is unusual, and the recently-restored interior with its seven large chapels is well worth a look.
It was built in 1606 after the land was ceded to the Livornese by Ferdinando I. Three years later a small cemetery and an oratory were built at the rear of the church, of which only the oratory now remains. This is known as the Cappella di San Ranieri (St Ranier’s chapel).
Much of the church’s original decoration was lost in the war, but the ceiling was rebuilt in the original style. The church contains a number of the Saint’s relics, donated to Ferdinand’s wife by the bishop of Brescia in 1606.
The huge church of Santa Maria del Soccorso was designed by Gaetano Gherardi following an outbreak of cholera in Livorno in 1835 during which more than a thousand Livornese inhabitants lost their lives.
It is the biggest church in Livorno, measuring 90 metres in length, and it stands in the attractive square known as Piazza della Vittoria (formerly Piazza Magenta) at the end of Via Magenta, near the town centre.