“A diamond set in a forest of olive trees”: so the parish church of Saint Michael the Archangel was described by the French politician Lèon Gambetta, whose father was from Celle. The latter’s birthplace is right in the heart of the historic centre, in Via Sant’Antonio.
Built between 1630 and 1645 on the remains of a 12th-century church, of which the spired bell tower has been preserved, the parish church contains works by the great names of Genoese painting, particularly Piola and Fiasella, and also a rare crucifix from the 15th century and a 19th century crib by Antonio Brilla, with terracotta figurines showing scenes of popular life.
The apse, above the altar, has an altarpiece with a polyptych of Saint Michael and the saints by Perin del Vaga, a pupil of Raphael, painted in 1535 during the period of his stay in Genoa. Legend has it that it is a votive offering from the painter in thanks for his life after being washed up on the beach at Celle after a shipwreck. In fact, according to an inscription, it was commissioned by the fishermen of Celle and proves they knew of and could appreciate an artist who worked at the highest cultural circles of his time.
Opposite the church there is a courtyard with a mosaic of over half a million black and white stones that Celle’s primary school children, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, collected from the shore between Albisola and Cornigliano.
Behind the church there is the ancient Oratory of Saint Michael, referred to as domus disciplinatorum in documents from the second half of the 16th century. It consists of a single rectangular clean and simple classroom, with a presbytery plastered only in the nineteenth century. Here confraternities conserve the crucifixes carried in procession: their level of culture signified by the choice of Pasquale Navone to carve the crucifix in 1767.
Part of the Oratory’s heritage is the 1694 polychrome limewood case with Saint Michael the Archangel by Anton Maria Maragliano, traditionally carried on the shoulders of the cristezanti during the processions in honour of the Patron Saint.