Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca

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Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca  


The Cathedral of Lucca, also known as the Dome of San Martino, is one of the most interesting and ancient churches in Tuscany. Inside are preserved works of art and religious works of great importance: the Holy Face (Volto Santo) one of the most important relics of the Catholic faith, is housed inside the building in an octagonal display case; the famous funeral monument in Ilaria del Carretto, the work of Jacopo della Quercia; there are also the Last Supper of Tintoretto, paintings by Ghirlandaio, by Fra' Bartolomeo, Filippino Lippi and several others.

Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaThe foundations of the structure date back to the sixth century, probably arose at the behest of San Frediano himself, retired as a hermit in the nearby mountains of Pisa, hired as bishop at the behest of the citizens and for which the Basilica of San Frediano was also built (see dedicated section). The usual liveliness of the city center however, if you can say so, the Church of San Michele in the forum, while the Duomo is located in a quieter part, close to the walls of Lucca and exactly the opposite part of the city with respect to the Basilica. Equidistant from the Cathedral are also the Botanical Garden of Lucca and the famous Piazza Napoleone (each year the site of Lucca Summer Festival).

Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaIf you arrive by train, the cathedral is, after the walls, the first historical monument you will encounter. In Piazza San Martino, however, you can always get to Piazza San Martino from a maze of streets and alleyways and the Duomo slowly appears to be visible, as if hidden around the corner. Next to it is Piazza Antelminelli, recognizable by the fountain located in its center. In fact, the cathedral is at the limits of what was the Roman Lucca. Even before that, the Church of Saints John and Reparata was located in the area. You don't have to wait long for the construction of a new religious building to begin, for which the political and economic agreements immediately found ample refreshment. What is known is that at the beginning of the eighth century the title of cathedral was transferred to the building dedicated to San Martino and the nearby church remained only the privilege of baptistery. In the same period, as confirmation of the new status quo, the relics of San Regolo, African bishop and' patron saint of the city', still preserved in the cathedral, also arrived in San Martino.

Ebook di LuccaAround the second half of the eleventh century, at the behest of Pope Alexander II (born Anselmo da Baggio and bishop of Lucca) and in the presence of Matilde di Canossa, the Cathedral was completely rebuilt and transformed into five naves. Even of this phase, however, little remains, if not some testimony in the Museo del Duomo, including a bust depicting the pope himself. About three centuries later, the aisles were reduced to three and the church became a Latin cross, the culmination of a stylistic rebuilding that lasted several years and for which a special confraternity was set up, the Opera del Frontespizio, later merged in the 12th century into the Opera di Santa Croce. Even before, in the 12th century, the façade was completed with the three-arched portico and the series of loggias with multiform columns. The figure that can be seen on the façade with a parchment in hand dated 1204 is the architect who followed the project, Guidetto by Como, son of Guido and one of the Magistri cumacini (maestri comacini), of the building craftsmen coming from upper Lombardy.

Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaEven before telling of the interior, the façade of the Cathedral of Lucca deserves a first mention. As with that of San Michele in foro, the Duomo is also rich in unusual characteristics: it is strongly asymmetrical, always rather rare and strange in the churches, because raised to divine perfection (it will be noticed how the three arches, the right one is narrower than the other two); it is richly decorated and sculpted, you will notice scenes depicting the 'martyrdom of San Regolo' (lunetta of the portal), the 'Deposition' (work by Nicola Pisano) in the lunette of the portal on the left, and the Ascension of Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaChrist in the lunette of the central portal. You will also notice the loggias supported by columns and ophthytic columns, that is knotted (typical of Lombard and Cistercian architecture, and in a narrower sense used in Comacina art, followed by Guidetto). On the right side of the façade you can also see the statue on the 'San Martino' horseback (in the act of sharing his precious cloak with a poor man), the original of 1233 is kept inside the cathedral: although the two figures are not at all similar, it comes to think of the knight of Bamberga, present in the cathedral of this city of Germany (see the guide of Bamberga, for more information)

Labirinto Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaA little below, in the side entrance and under the narrower archway of the façade, arouses curiosity a large inlaid labyrinth, in whose centre you can see a figure consumed by time. These Latin words surround the drawing, probably translated as follows: "This is the labyrinth built by Cretan Daedalus, from whom nobody who came in could come out except Theseus helped by the Ariadne thread". Many people refer to the labyrinth of Lucca as the result of mystery, but in fact it should be remembered that the city was located in the middle of the Via Francigena, along which the labyrinths certainly do not lack (so much to be called Via dei labyrinths): we find them very concentrated along the path that from Pavia arrives to Lucca, passing also by Piacenza and Pontremoli.

In Lucca the pilgrim arrived to see the Holy Face (Volto Santo)and possibly continued towards Rome, or vice versa, towards Santiago de Compostela. Of course we know, the labyrinth fascinates the most mysterious symbolists and can be the object of numerous interpretations, all quite coherent (you will notice the similarity of the labyrinth of Lucca with those of the Cathedral of Chartres in France and with the labyrinth of Alatri in the province of Frosinone); certainly it refers in the immediacy to an intricate and difficult path to overcome and that re-interpreted in a Christian sense. Is this not perhaps the intention of each pilgrim in reaching his own goal?

Monumento a Ilaria del Carretto nella Cattedrale di San Martino a LuccaOnce inside the cathedral, a sense of wide space and marked verticalism was overwhelmed. The plan is a Latin cross and divided into three naves, the atmosphere is Gothic and enriched by Romanesque elements. You will notice the difference in height between the central nave and the side aisles, another typical example of this church. On the walls of Monumento a Ilaria del Carretto nella Cattedrale di San Martino a Luccathe side walls there are various paintings, including Jacopo Tintoretto's Last Supper (1518-1594). Just a little further on, housed in the lateral sacristy, is the Funeral monument in Ilaria del Carretto, by Jacopo della Quercia (1408), one of the most important sculptural works in Italy's artistic heritage.

Also in the sacristy there are other paintings of medieval art, including Madonna and Child among the SS. Peter, Clement, Paul and Sebastianby Domenico Ghirlandaio (1479) and in the upper lunette a dead Christ supported by Nicodemo, attributed to the workshop of Filippino Lippi. Also inside the Sacristy, you can admire a twelfth-century tempera on wood (Christ crucified between Mary and John, painful, with scenes of the Passion) and the Polyptych Madonna with Child and Saints Lamb, Regolo, Antonio Abbot and Riccardo by Francesco d'Andrea Anguilla of the fifteenth century (tempera on wood), of this artist see also another polyptych in the Chapel of the SS Nicola, Biagio, Antonio Abate and Valerian, early 15th century. On the opposite side to the sacristy, stands out the ancient crucifix of the Holy Face (or Santa Croce) preserved in a special "temple" of fifteenth-century construction, we have Ghirlandaio - Cattedrale di San Martino a Luccadedicated a special section to it, to which the reader is referred. On the whole, you can admire other works of historical-artistic value, including a "Madonna with Child between Saints John the Baptist and Stephen" by Fra' Bartolomeo, made with oil technique on board in 1509, measuring 165 x 152 cm, an Adoration of the Magi by Federico Zuccari, a San Girolamo by Paolo Biancucci (Sacrestia) and the already referred to Guercino (to admire this artist, we know it, we have to go to another church in Lucca, the Church of Santa Maria Forisportam), and the funeral monuments Da Noceto and Bertini by Matteo Civitali (1436-1501). The apse basin was frescoed by Giovanni Coli and Filippo Gherardi in 1681. Finally, don't miss a visit to the The apse basin was frescoed by Giovanni Coli and Filippo Gherardi in 1681. Finally, don't miss a visit to the Dome Museum in Lucca.

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