Cathedral of the Assumption of Saint Mary
History and museums
Ajaccio Cathedral, officially the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio and also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of Saint Mary, (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l'Assomption de Ajaccio; Cathédrale de l'Assomption de Sainte-Marie) is a Baroque/Mannerist Roman Catholic cathedral located in Ajaccio, Corsica. It is the seat of the Bishop of Ajaccio, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Marseille. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The present cathedral was built between 1577 and 1593 and is attributed to Italian architect Giacomo della Porta. It was built to replace the former Cathedral of Saint-Croix, destroyed in 1553 in order to make room for developments in the city's defenses, as stated in the permit required by the Council of Ancients in 1559 to the Senate of Genoa and Pope Gregory XIII in order to build a new cathedral. The final stone was laid in 1593 by Jules Guistiniani, made bishop by Pope Sixtus V. It is where Napoleon Bonaparte was baptized on July 21, 1771 and he recited the following on his deathbed in Saint Helena in 1821: "If they forbid my corpse, as they have forbidden my body, deny me a small piece of land in which to be buried, I wish to be buried with my ancestors in Ajaccio Cathedral in Corsica."
The cathedral has been a monument historique (a national heritage site of France) since October 30, 1906.
According to legend, on August 15, 1769, Letizia Buonaparte felt sudden labor pains while in the cathedral. She rushed home to the Buonaparte's home, just steps away, and gave birth to Napoleon on a first floor sofa before she could reach her bedroom upstairs.
Ajaccio Cathedral is built in the style of the Counter-Reformation with an ocher Baroque façade.
The present cathedral is smaller than its predecessor. The interior's Latin cross is delineated by the shallow and modestly-sized transept, which is covered by a dome. The central nave is very high and wide itself, but is short in length compared to the rest of the building. It is covered with barrel vault arches reminiscent of the Renaissance era. The building also has two aisles that depart from the front door and go up to the transept, separated in the middle by the seven chapels beside two rows of three columns.
Entering on the right is the marble baptismal font. It is a simple bowl engraved with Giustiniani's coat of arms, surmounted by a Tuscan bronze crown, below which there is a gold inscription, Heic baptisatus Magnus Imperator (Latin for Here is baptized the Great Emporer).
The altar is in polychrome marbles, a gift from Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister, and has an altarpiece composed of four twisted columns of black marble from Porto Venere. The Corinthian orders have a double pedestal with a collection of marble. The tabernacle dates from the time of the construction of the cathedral and originally stood at the baptismal font. It was then placed at the high altar and stands out for its unorthodox style.
Ajaccio Cathedral has seven side chapels, but the following three are the most prominent:
The cathedral also houses a large pipe organ built in 1849 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and later restored and electrified by Joël Pétrique.