Church of San Michele in Foro in Lucca

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Church of San Michele in Foro in Lucca

 

The origins of the church of San Michele are ancient, dating back to a period prior to 795, the year of first documentation; however, the current structure is more recent. It became the privilege of the Gigli family, which helped to renew its exterior and interior decorations, but it was Pope Alexander II who wanted its rebuilding in the last decades of the eleventh century and to make it reach almost as far as the present day.

San Michele in Foro a LuccaThe construction of the religious building was prolonged in time, so much so that the architectural style that followed, as it is admired today, is a clear result of styles ranging from Romanesque to Gothic. In fact, the church now appears to be a timeless structure, as if it were a model placed there by who knows which divine presence. Will the Lucchese people get used to it, in the footsteps " usual" in the maze of streets and narrow streets of the historic centre. The unusual visitor, however, the unusual passage between the courtyards and ancient alleys leads almost suddenly to this church with its unusual architecture and irregular proportions. Everything becomes a discovery, architectural certainly. No other churches are known to be surmounted by huge sculptures like this one.

San Michele in Foro a LuccaCertainly, it struck the pilgrims who were passing here along the Via Francigena. Was it located at the point where ancient Roman Lucca crossed the maximum decumanus and the cardo maximo,the forum was the center of public life and beating heart of the city, from which today the church takes its name. Not much seems to have changed since then, if not that in the medieval period there was a canal, called Fossa Natali and the church was accessed from a wooden bridge (called Ponte al Foro). Centuries later, the church square was paved and the Palazzo Pretorio built, together with all the houses that still today delimit its perimeter and that in fact retain typical medieval architectural features. They also served as shops for commercial activities and silk processing. The flooring and the two-step elevation is more recent, as is the delimitation of the columns joined by chains.

Filippino LippiThe new structure commissioned by Alexander II was worked by several architects and the history of its future is flanked by the history of the city. The façade is the work of Guidetto da Como, an architect of Lombard origin who was active in the 13th century in Tuscany and especially in Lucca. He is responsible in particular for the entrance portal, with architrave sculpted by fantastic motifs, while the decorations, such as sculptures and rich inlays distributed on four orders, are deduced to be by Diotisalvi, better known for the Baptistery of Pisa, in Piazza dei Miracoli. The loggias, in polychrome marble, are clearly influenced by a Lombard style and attributable to the school of Guidetto da Como. Among the figures that decorate the arches of the façade, you will also notice some key figures of the Italian San Michele in Foro a LuccaRisorgimento (the Cavour, Vittorio Emanuele and Giuseppe Garibaldi). What stands out, however, is the great marble statue of the Archangel Michael, about 4 meters high, with a spear in his hand on the right, and a crucified globe on the left. The statue is placed on top of the entire structure: the tradition of Lucca tells that the strange glittering that every now and then seems to be perceived in a specific point of the square, comes from a ring set with a precious stone, placed on the finger of the angel. It is certainly worth asking the people of Lucca whether such a glittering has ever been seen, many say yes, but certainly it has never been proved that there is such a precious object in the hand of the statue.

The interior of the church of San Michele in Foro is a Latin cross and, like the outside, certainly does not leave indifferent. Among the other exquisite works of art, including a splendid Madonna and Child in glazed terracotta by Andrea della Robbia, and a table that recalls influences at the Botticelli workshop, here by Filippino Lippi and depicting Saints Jerome, Sebastian, Rocco and Empress Elena (known as Pala Magrini, 1483). The high relief of the Virgin by Raphael from Montelupo is also appreciated.


Addresses :
Church of San Michele in Foro
San Michele Square
Historic centre, Lucca

Opening hours:
07:40 - 12:00 - 12:00 / 15:00 - 18:00

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