San Martino, Lucca's Cathedral

Cathedral in Lucca

Cattedrale Di San Martino Lucca
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Mongolo1984

The Cathedral of Lucca, dedicated to S. Martino, is believed to have been commissioned by S. Frediano, the bishop of Lucca, who passed away in 588.

Between 1060 and 1070, the Cathedral underwent a complete reconstruction and was consecrated in 1070 by Anselmo da Baggio, who later became Pope Alexander II. Countess Matilda of Canossa also attended the solemn consecration. Subsequent work continued in different phases until 1637, culminating in the construction of the Shrine Chapel. The Romanesque-style fa├žade, resembling that of the Pisa Cathedral, stands as a masterpiece of architectural brilliance in Lucca. Guidetto da Como is credited for this remarkable work, which features polychrome marbles, a grand portico facing the square with three arches, and splendid bas-reliefs narrating the martyrdom of S. Regolo, the cycle of the months, and the stories of S. Martino. An exceptional Deposition sculpted by Nicola Pisano in 1260 can be admired in the lunette at the entrance to the left aisle.

Historically, the Cathedral’s portico served as a place where moneychangers conducted transactions with pilgrims journeying along the Via Francigena, an ancient road leading to Rome, passing through Lucca. An inscription on the portico warns moneychangers not to defraud their customers. Notably, a mysterious labyrinth carved on one of the pillars could symbolize pilgrimage or be an artistic creation related to the Templars, resembling the one found on the floor of the Cathedral in Chartres.

Inside the Cathedral, the three-aisled interior captivates visitors with its Gothic elements, creating a compelling atmosphere. The interior houses several significant artworks, including the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Last Supper by Jacopo Tintoretto.

The Cathedral also houses the Holy Face, a wooden crucifix that, according to tradition, was crafted by Nicodemus using the true face of Jesus. The statue finds its place in a splendid 15th-century small temple crafted by Matteo Civitali.

Among the treasured works within the Cathedral, one finds the funeral monument to Ilaria del Carretto, a creation of Jacopo della Quercia between 1406 and 1408. This marble masterpiece depicts the young noblewoman, wife of Paolo Guinigi, who tragically died in childbirth. The sculptor portrayed her as a beautiful sleeping maiden with a small dog at her feet, symbolizing marital fidelity.


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Visiting San Martino, Lucca's Cathedral

Address: St Martin Cathedral, Piazza Antelminelli, Lucca, Province of Lucca, Italy
Duration: 30 minutes

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