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Genoa: the mysterious chessboard ...

Genoa: the mysterious chessboard ...

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is a majestic building in the historic center of Genoa which welcomes you in its homonymous square with fascinating Gothic portals and the white and black bands, a symbol of Genoese nobility in the Middle Ages. Place of Catholic worship of the city of Genoa, it was consecrated in 1118 in its most essential form, with a single altar and a small surrounding area, but was then expanded in the years to come until its completion in 1522.

The well -known white marble stylophores that welcome tourists and faithful on the sides of the cathedral, are instead added, guarding the sacred space, in 1840 by the sculptor Carlo Rubatto on the occasion of a reorganization of the neighborhood and the lowering of the churchyard.


Of the many peculiarities of decoration present outside it, perhaps the most curious is a mysterious white and red chessboard inserted on the left side to almost 4 meters high. There are several hypotheses on its presence, each very curious ...


The first, in correlation to other symbols in the cathedral, brings directly back to the Knights Templar. In fact, it seems that the game of chess have imported him precisely from the East also attributing spiritual meanings: the clear alternation of colors on the chessboard, a reason also present in their battle banner, manifests the eternal struggle between good and evil; Pedestrians, on the other hand, represent man, as a single, who fights step by step, overcoming obstacles and problems.


The second, attributes the chessboard to the very mirror of 1300 Megollo Lercari, passionate about chess.

It is said that Megollo entertained trade with Trebizond on the Black Sea and on one of these occasions, he challenged Andronicus, the favorite of the court of the emperor his friend Alessio II. Andronicus, with a superb and not very polite character, missed respect to Megollo and his Genoa, insulting for the entire game. The merchant, furious, organized revenge returning to Trebizonda armed with two galleys to raid and cut the noses of the subjects of the emperor until he obtained new territories and business rights.


Finally, the last curious story sees Genovesi and Pisani of the time rival in battle numerous times. One of these was fought directly on the chessboard by the two cities of the cities. The Genoese Doge, winner, as a sign of thanks and Vittoria had the chessboard placed on the cathedral where we still see it today.


We thank the following sources for the information collected and we invite you to a further curious study:,ed%20il%20XIII%20secolo)%2C%20 allegorie




Photo references:


Photo chessboard


Cathedral photo of San Lorenzo Este

PH: Jensens, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Cathedral photo of San Lorenzo Internal

PH: GNECKX, CC by 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo Genoa

Photo 135935337 © Antanovich1985 /


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