The Mercato Orientale
a 320 year long story

The place that today, and since 1899, has been occupied by the MOG, was once the site of an ancient convent of the Eremitano Order of Saint Augustine, still responsible for the nearby church, Our Lady of Consolation. The Augustinian Fathers used to have a large monastery on the left bank of the river Bisagno, active and thriving until 1656, when, due to the outburst of Plague that afflicted and decimated the Genoese population, was handed over “with generous promptness” to be used as a lazaretto and subsequently demolished in 1681. The monks moved to the San Vincenzo area, opposite the large convent complex of Santa Maria Della Pace, to the east of the city, in the portion of land between the old 16th-century walls and the new ones, completed in 1637. Here, between the Santo Stefano door and Porta d’Arco, they started to build the new Church of Our Lady of Consolation (consolabitur omnes ruinas) and the convent whose first stone was laid in 1699. The building of the cloister, though, was soon interrupted. The many pillars which provided a portico on the lower floor were brick walled and there found a place small shops and small shelters for the goods. The upper floors were used as flats for civilians, while the Augustinian monks occupied the third floor. The vast indoor area was not used but became a garden.

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In this map of Genoa of the end of the 18th century, the location and the original structure of the Consolation convent are clearly identified.

Anonymous cartographer late 18th century Genoa.
Detail pencil, pen and watercolor on paper
DocSAI Center, Topographic Collection of the Municipality of Genoa

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In the mid-1800s the area was enriched by a new neighborhood between Via S. Vincenzo and the Consolation Church, along the routes of Via Galata and Piazza Colombo. To the south stands the imposing bulk of the Manicomio di Abrara, round with a radial structure, built between 1834 and 1841, designed by Carlo Barabino and then destroyed in 1912, leaving space for new roads, now called “quadrilateral”.

Celestino Foppiani (draftsman) Nicolò Armanino (engraver)
Map of Genoa.
Particular. lithograph, 1853 DocSAI Center,
Topographical Collection of the Municipality of Genoa

Alfred Guesdon is the inventor of views of Genoa of great quality both for the refinement and precision of the graphic sign and for the originality of the shooting points. The gardens of Acquasola, still joined to Villetta di Negro, stretch out behind the city that slopes down to the sea, finely described. In the extreme corner of this view, in the foreground we see the back side of the Consolation Church with the arm of the convent, as it appeared in the first half of the 1800s.

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Alfred Guesdon (draftsman) Nantes 1808-1876 Johan K. Schulz (lithographer)
Danzica 1801-1873 View of Genoa from the top, towards the west.
Detail of lithograph, 1849 Genoa, DocSAI Center,
Topographical Collection of the Municipality of Genoa

Area

The 17thcentury walls had just been completed and the city had not yet reclaimed in an organic way the area between the old and the new walls. Surely, the Augustinian monks had sensed that would become a strategic place situated on the road that connected the two doors, the old Door of Saint Stephen and the new door of the Pila. So it was. In the 19th century a major urban operation involving the organisation of the main arteries of urban communication, in view of the rational expansion to the east of the city, created between 1896 and 1902 what still is today the main street of the city centre: via XX Settembre, which caused the demolition of via Giulia and via Della Pace, or Via Della Consolazione.

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The Consolation Church
before the construction of via XX Settembre.
from a postcard of the mid-800 DocSAI Center,
Photographic archive of the Municipality of Genoa

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Anonymous The Consolation Church
during the construction of via XX Settembre
April 2, 1896 from original negative on glass plate
with silver salt gelatine, 13×18 cm DocSAI Center,
Photographic archive of the Municipality of Genoa

Sunday 7th May 1899, at 10 o’clock, the inauguration

The opening of the new market was given a prominent space in the newspapers at the time. For the occasion, these modern spaces were utilized by a scenographic flower and horticultural show, organized by the agricultural committee. It was a flower feast that had great impact on the citizens, so much so that the chronicles report an unexpected success with visitors. In particular, a huge palm tree was transported from a villa in Nervi, the biggest tree in Liguria, 11 metres tall and more than 8000 kilos in weight: an exceptional attraction. For three weeks the area of the market was home to various events and exhibitions, among which the most popular described by newspapers was the launch of 500 homing pigeons by the Fert company. The municipality, to facilitate the visitors, organised a dedicated tram service starting from Brignole railway station, Raibetta square and Corvetto square. “The opinion of those who visited the premises at the time was that such a place was too beautiful, too elegant for the purpose to which had been destined and built, being much more suitable for a fair organized by aristocratic ladies, garden parties or fashionable celebrations than for a market that sold vegetables, legumes and the likes.” From “Genova Nuova”

The publication “Genova Nuova”, which describes all “the new and worthy things that give Genoa prestige” in the second half of the century, dedicates a chapter to the new Mercato Orientale. “The market is a true jewel, both in the details and in the architectural work, low-key and elegant also in the eminently decorative aspect”. The structure is innovative. It is the first building in Genoa to have employed the Hennebique’s reinforced concrete system, patented by the Porcheddu firm. In that same year the building of the impressive granary silo in the port.

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New Mercato Orientale. The central loggia. New Mercato Orientale.
The perimeter porch. photos taken from Genova Nuova, Genoa 1902

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Municipal Market Cabinet Mercato Orientale.
Interior June 16, 1925 from original negative
on a glass plate with silver salt gelatine,
cm.13×18 DocSAI Center,
Photographic archive of the Municipality of Genoa

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Municipal Market Cabinet Mercato Orientale.
Interior June 16, 1925 from original negative
on a glass plate with silver salt gelatine,
cm.13×18 DocSAI Center,
Photographic archive of the Municipality of Genoa

MOG loghistoria history