The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, in Ajaccio


‘If they forbid my corpse, as they have forbidden my body, denying me a small piece of land in which to be laid – I desire to be buried with my ancestors in Ajaccio’s cathedral in Corsica ..’ – Napoleon remembering his childhood church, was to recite these words on his death bed in St Helena, in 1821. We realise immediately just how important the cathedral was to him too. In July 1771, his baptism, along with his sister’s (Marie-Anne) were held there and his uncle Lucien (archdeacon) was also a priest at the cathedral. As for the Bonaparte funeral chapel, it was at one stage there too, being transferred at a later date to the ‘imperial chapel’ at the Fesch Museum.

Built between 1577-1593, replacing the Saint Croix Cathedral (which was destroyed in 1553) and dedicated to the Virgin Mary – its architecture (Baroque/Mannerist), being accredited to Giaccomo Della Porta, and where Jules Giustiniani who had been made bishop by Sixtus V – laid the final stone.

One can admire the Latin cross, dome and central nave, which is covered with arches from the Renaissance era. There are seven side chapels, although three of them would notably stand out; the chapel of our Lady of Mercy, of our Lady of the Rosary and of the Madonna of the Pianto.

The marble fount where Napoleon was baptised can be found upon entering on the right hand side, of Tuscan inspiration bearing an engraved, gold inscription: ‘Heic Baptisatus Imperator Magnus’ and wall paintings by Domenico del Tintoretto (in the small chapel of the Madonna of the Pianto) and Delacroix, illustrating the Virgin of the Sacred Heart (1822). One can see a statue of the Madonna in the chapel of our Lady of Mercy, that would be an exact replica of one reverenced in Savona, and named the Madonuccia by the Ajaccians – where on March 18th, a solemn procession and celebration takes place, commemorating her protection of the city, during the plague in 1661.

The altar would have been donated by one of Napoleon’s sisters Elisa Bacciochi, Princess of Lucca and Piombino – originally from the Suffraganti Church in Lucca, as were the four columns with their black marble shafts. The arch of the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary is decorated with the mysteries of the Virgin Mary, within which one can see two statues; one being that of Saint Domingo and the other being of Saint Catherine of Sienna.

It is a ‘divine visit’ in many ways, where one can spend peaceful moments and admire various beautiful works.

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