The Castle of San Giusto and the Cathedral of San Giusto dominate the hill of San Giusto.
It is said that … Giusto, a Christian from Venezia Giulia, a man of great penance and great generosity, a Christian since childhood, joined in the year 303 by the imperial order which required all Christians to bear witness to their fidelity to sovereign (Diocletian) sacrificing to the gods of Rome. Giusto declared himself a faithful subject of the emperor., but he could not sacrifice to the Roman gods, because his God was Jesus Christ. The sentence was inevitable: death. Giusto was thrown into the sea in front of Trieste, tied to weights that immediately dragged him to the bottom. But then the ties broke up and the martyr’s body resurfaced, ending up on the beach. A priest and a group of Christians rushed, who gave the body extreme care and then buried it near the place where it was found. In the fifth century, a Christian basilica was built on a hill, where there had been a temple dedicated to the ancient divinities. And there the body of the martyr was then transferred, who will give his name to the hill: Colle di San Giusto. The statue of San Giusto del Mare is exhibited in the Cathedral in early November, a bronze statue made by the Trieste sculptor Tristano Alberti and “lowered” into the sea in 1984. In 2010 it was cleaned and restored and is exhibited every year on the occasion of the celebrations of the Patron Saint of Trieste, on November 3.
The first news on the cathedral of San Giusto dates back to the years 1302 and 1320, when the bishop Roberto Pedrazzani da Robecco incorporated the churches of Santa Maria and the one dedicated to the martyr San Giusto, built on a Roman temple dedicated to Juno, in a single structure. On 17 February 1337 at the behest of the notary Randolfo Baiardo – as shown by the inscription in Gothic characters placed above the arch of the portal – work began for the construction of the bell tower which was built on the ancient Romanesque tower, preserved inside, built around to the bell tower of the former church of Santa Maria. During the works the bas-relief decorated slabs with the symbols of Roman military victories The bas-reliefs that decorate two sides of the bell tower represent war trophies taken by the Romans from the Celts, barbarians won in battle, were used to decorate a part of the masonry of the new bell tower and at the top of the tower the symbols of the city were placed the “melon” with the halberd, replaced by a pyramid-shaped tile roof after the damage caused by a lightning strike in 1421 which reduced the bell tower to its current height. Even the bells were damaged several times by lightning and recast, until 1953 when three new copper and tin bells were inaugurated and decorated by Carlo Sbisà, a famous Trieste artist. It is said that in 1508 the Venetians during the conquest of Trieste stole the largest bell called “el Campanon” and when the bell was loaded on a ship near the Lantern Lighthouse, it slipped into the sea and the sailors who passed there during the storms they heard the sweet sound of the submerged bell.
Above the entrance to the tower in a Gothic arched aedicule is the Gothic statue of the patron saint San Giusto who looks at the facade of the cathedral and holds the palm of martyrdom in his right hand, while the symbols of Trieste in the other. It is assumed that the work is dated between the 10th and 11th centuries and attributed to a workshop in Venzone, however it seems that the head of the patron saint is more a work of the Romanesque period and perhaps added later to replace the original head damaged by the time. The Austrian emperor Leopold III appointed the first German bishop of Trieste, Enrico de Wildenstein, who on 27 November 1385 consecrated the main altar of the cathedral. Next to the Cathedral is the Chapel of San Giovanni ex-Baptistery, inside which all the Roman finds found under the castle and the fourteenth-century mosaics depicting the martyrdom of San Giusto are preserved. Next to the Cathedral there is the chapel of San Michele al Carnale from 1200, where the exhumed bones of the cemetery that were found in the Lapidary Garden were kept.
On the façade of San Giusto the fourteenth-century Gothic rose window stands out with the white stone columns of the karst similar to the one that adorned the Cathedral of Cremona, the birthplace of Bishop Rodolfo Pedrazzani who had commissioned it to the stonecutters who came from Soncino, near Cremona. Today in Trieste there is Via dei Soncini to remember these artisans who lived with their families in Trieste. Two cannonballs fired in 1813 by the ships of the British fleet against the Castle of San Giusto defended by the French Napoleonic troops are embedded on the facade of San Giusto.
On the facade there are three busts, from the left that of Enea Silvio Piccolomini I, Rinaldo Scarlicchio and Andrea Rapicio. Enea Silvio Piccolomini elected Bishop of Trieste in 1446 managed to smooth out the violent discords between the Diocese of Trieste and the city Chapter and also with the Emperor Frederick III.He lived in an elegant villa in Barcola and in addition to writing poems and rhymes, he wrote numerous important works. Elected Pope in 1458, with the name Pius II, he intervened in the Serenissima to put an end to the wars on the Adriatic. He died in Ancona while he was preparing to leave for the war against the Turks. Bust of Bishop Rinaldo Scarlicchio elected bishop in Trieste on 5 June 1621, where he remained for nine years. He fought the Lutheran heresy and died in 1640 and was buried in today’s Gornji Grad, in the tomb of the bishops of Ljubljana. Bust of Bishop Andrea Rapicio (Trieste, 1533 – Trieste, 1573), Catholic, Italian jurist and man of letters, bishop of Trieste since 1565. It seems that his family had moved to Istria and that the young Andrea had spent long periods of vacation there . The Rapicius castle, an impressive masonry that was destroyed during the Second World War, was located near Pazin. Only one painting has survived, probably originally part of a series, depicting the bishop Andrea. Work by an unknown painter, it can be dated to the early 18th century. The jambs of the main portal of the cathedral were obtained from a Roman funerary stele, and on the left one is a sculpture of the Templar cross.
The bells of San Giusto were damaged several times by lightning and recast, until 1953 when three new copper and tin bells were inaugurated and decorated by Carlo Sbisà, a famous Trieste artist. It is said that … in 1508 the Venetians during the conquest of Trieste stole the largest bell called “el Campanon” and when the bell was loaded on a ship near the Lantern Lighthouse, it slipped into the sea and the sailors passing by during the storms they heard the sweet sound of the submerged bell …..
Next to the cathedral there is a Venetian column from 1560 at the top of which in 1844 the melon with 13 wedges were placed, one for each Casada of the Trieste medieval nobility and the halberd. It is said that … the halberd which, according to an ancient tradition, fell from the sky on Trieste on the day of the martyrdom of S. Sergio, patron saint of Trieste together with San Giusto.
The interior has five naves, the two on the left belonged to the Romanesque basilica of the Assumption, those on the right to the medieval temple of San Giusto. The Byzantine mosaics that cover the apses date back to 1100-1200.
The Byzantine mosaics cover the left apse and date back to the early 1100s: the Mother of God between the archangels Gabriel and Michael and the Apostles in the mystical garden. The mosaics of the right apse are dated to 1200: the blessing Christ flanked by the martyrs Giusto and Servolo on the golden background. Under the mosaics, within the small arches, around 1230 the frescoes with the passion of St. Giusto were painted: the flogging, the death sentence by drowning, the journey to the pier, the martyrdom, the premonitory dream of Sebastian, the discovery of the body, the funeral and the taking of his soul into heaven. To the right of the chapel of San Giusto there is a small apse dedicated to St. Apollinare, decorated with Romanesque frescoes very faded by time, depicting the Stories of the Saint.
The central apse, which concludes the presbytery, was mosaic in 1932 by the Venetian Guido Cadorin who depicted the Coronation of the Virgin and Saints. Adjacent to the chapel of the Addolorata, there is the chapel of the Treasure, where objects from different periods are preserved: Byzantine-Romanesque, Gothic-Renaissance and Baroque-Neoclassical.
Among them, it is worth noting in particular: the reliquary-urn of San Giusto, in silver foil, a thirteenth-century work of Cividale production. It was found intact in 1624 by Bishop Scarlicchio under the altar of the Saint and inside there was also the pierced stone with which the saint was drowned and the veil painted with his image; the crucifix of the Battuti, the crucifix of Alda Giuliani; the gothic style halberd of S. Sergio and tradition has it that the weapon-relic tolerates neither rust nor gilding; the polyptych by Paolo Veneziano, depicting the Crucifixion and then many saints in small arches and others appear half-length between the arches.
In the left aisle there are the two chapels of San Giovanni and San Giuseppe. The first dates back to the late Romanesque period and was probably built on the site of the ancient Paleochristian baptistery. On the walls there are frescoes with the Stories of San Giusto. The chapel of San Giuseppe was built in the seventeenth century. by bishop Scarlicchio, on the side walls are represented the scenes of the Flight into Egypt and the Death of St. Joseph; on the vault the Glorification of the Saint. In the right aisle there are the chapels of San Servolo and San Carlo. The chapel of S. Servolo was built in the first half of the fourteenth century and enlarged about a century later. Of great artistic importance is the dramatic sculptural group of the Vesperbildo Lamentation over the Dead Christ, a German work of the first half of the fourteenth century. The chapel of S. Carlo was commissioned in 1336 by the bishop fra ‘Pace da Vedano to place his burial there. Some members of the Carlist branch of the Bourbons of Spain and Marzio Strassoldo di Villanova, Caesarean captain of Trieste from 1710 to 1723 are buried in it.