The Cathedral of San Giorgio

The city of Ferrara was born as a fortified defense post, the castrum, with the aim of protecting the episcopal established on the island of San Giorgio after fleeing from Voghenza for the attack suffered by the Huns. The castrum, with the first church dedicated to San Giorgio erected around 650, was located north of the river Po to allow better connections with the city of Ravenna. Since this position was distant and uncomfortable for the people of Ferrara - it was located beyond the dangerous waters of the river Po - in the midst of development of the Ferrara area in the 12th century, it was decided to move the cathedral inside the city. Part of the old city walls were demolished and after obtaining the land from the church of San Romano in 1135 (a date that it is carved on the entrance portal), works began to erect a cathedral dedicated to San Giorgio. This would soon would be the new heart of the city around which the main urban arteries developed.

The construction took place over various stages, from the initial wooden one to using stone, and over the centuries there were various reconstructions. In 1728 the cathedral was finally renovated inside and was consecrated by Cardinal Ruffo.

The martyrdom of San Lorenzo, Guercino
PHOTOGRAPH BY Francesca Orsatti

The building is characterized by a visual discontinuity between the external and internal, with a lack of congruence between envelope and content. I think it is right to leave the pleasure of judging the Cathedral as a whole based on the taste and sensitivity of the visitor. As far as I am concerned, the vision is amazing; the church is perfectly integrated into the city center and the interior characterized by a splendid altar, the apse of Biagio Rossetti with the Last Judgment painted by Bastianino (1577-1580), is of considerable value.

Interior view of the cathedral
PHOTOGRAPH BY Francesca Orsatti

Also noteworthy are the paintings of the Virgin in full glory with Saints Barbara and Catherine by artist Bastianino (ca 1532-1602), Saints Lorenzo and Francesco of Scarsellino (1550-1620), and The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo of Guercino (1591-1666). If you are a lover of the Italian Renaissance, you cannot ask for anything better. In the Cathedral there is also the tomb of Pope Urban III, buried there for his unexpected death while passing through Ferrara in 1187 for a trip. Also noteworthy is the Chapel of the Baptistery, the baptismal font obtained from a single block of marble, while the surrounding neo-Gothic construction is from the second half of the nineteenth century.

As for the exterior, the facade with a three-pointed structure was started in the Romanesque style, as can be seen in the lower parts. Above the central door are Saint George and the scenes of the New Testament, authored by the sculptor Nicholaus in 1135. The upper part was created about a decade later in the Gothic style, with the Last Judgment that stands out above the central loggia. The identity of the author is unknown.

In the lower left part of the facade, a plaque commemorates the passage of Ferrara from the power of the Este family to the papal one under the guidance of Clement VIII, while on the right, the statue inside the niche is that of the Marquis Alberto d’Este.


The Museum of the Cathedral of Ferrara is located in the former Church of San Romano, and as you can guess from the name, it consists mainly of works that were originally exhibited in the Cathedral. The museum was created in 1929, and in 2000 it was moved to the former church of San Romano where you can admire the cloister around which the museum rooms and the ticket office are arranged. The Museum was created with the aim of documenting the history of the Cathedral, whose collections are made up of works of ecclesiastical and municipal property covering a period from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

The museum itinerary unfolds through three rooms. In the first room, located on the first floor just above the ticket office, illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 1300s and 1400s are on display. A hymnbook, a psaltery and twenty-two Renaissance Atlantic choirs, various stone materials, including the remains of an ambo from Voghenza in the eighth century, are exhibited.

The second room, which can be accessed through the cloister, is covered by painted cross vaults and preserves some valuable reliquaries from the 14th and 15th centuries, sacred vestments and a Madonna and Child.

La Madonna della Melagrana Image
PHOTOGRAPH BY Francesca Orsatti
Painted cross vaults
PHOTOGRAPH BY Francesca Orsatti

The third room, however, is the one that displays the most valuable pieces, namely:

Museum information and relevant links

The Cathedral has been closed since March 4, 2019 and will remain so until a date to be destined for conservation / renovation works.



The Museum of the Ferrara Cathedral

The pierced dragon by Cosmè Tura - Anatomy of a detail

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Francesca Orsatti

Self-confessed history addicted and Ireland obsessed, Francesca was born in Ferrara and bred italian, and when, 21 years ago, given the chance to go to the Emerald Isle, she made it her second home, since then she’s spent her life going there and back between the 2 countries. She has a BA in Political Sciences with a thesis in geopolitcs about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. When not busy working on legal documents, she loves to spend her time travelling, reading books, giving lectures pro-bono about irish history for a charity organization in the city where she lives. She also enjoys to relax studing and following online courses on Futurelearn platform and so far she’s got certificates on courses about The Tudors, England at the time of Richard III, The Book of Kells and Empire: the controversies of british imperialism. Since speaking 3 languages is not enough for her, after english and spanish, she’s now learning irish.