Church of San Romano Lucca

Church of San Romano Lucca


The Church of San Romano, like many churches in Lucca and Italy, has a long history full of anecdotes and characters, unfortunately most of the time forgotten guilty, unknown to most, even those who live there a few meters. For at least a couple of years it has been reopened to the public as a sumptuous auditorium for various events, from concerts to book presentations to the most diverse cultural meetings. Next time you go to this beautiful former temple, we hope you will recall some passages from its past.


Tombe Cavalieri Teutonici San RomanoThe Dominican friars took possession of the church in 1236 "there was no doubt that the body of the Holy Martyr rested in it. When then in 1281, it was necessary to solemnly transfer the sacred deposit of the old Church to the one built again, the inscription was observed in the urn: Hic requiescit corpus S.Romani martyris, qui babtizatus fuit a S.Laurentio M.C.XV.VII sexto idus Augusti". (1)


Romano (died in Rome, August 9, 258), was a Roman legionary who converted to Christianity while attending the martyrdom of St. Lawrence. Declared Christian, he was beheaded at the time of the persecution of the Emperor Valerian. His relics are in Rome, Ferrara and Avella and Lucca. Curiously he is the patron saint of the Principality of Monaco.


The construction of the Church of San Romano began in the VII, as a small oratory within what was once the Castrum of Lucca. In the 13th century the Dominican Friars began heavy renovation and expansion work, which led to the building's current form, that is, that of a large church with a single nave. The project was never completed, however, so much so that the façade still lacks marble cladding.


Tombe Cavalieri Teutonici San RomanoOn the right side, once was the cloister and for this reason there were found numerous tombstones, from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including those of seven Teutonic knights. The nearby via Gallitassi was the place where the Knights Templar had their dependence. Lucca, on the Via Francigena was in fact a crossroads of pilgrimage to Rome, and the main monastic and religious orders dedicated to the care and protection of wayfarers had their own mansion on site. In via Gallittassi the Knights of Malta took possession of the property of the "Templars" after their suppression, then in 1799 the State property of Lucca. Today there are some coats of arms hanging in the adjacent palace and the memory in the name of the alley of the Cross of Malta, in poor state of preservation. In the church of San Romano, on 26th April 1413 peace was signed between Florentines, Genoese and Pistoiese (2).


Girolamo SavonarolaThe Dominican monastery, which in 1325 had hosted Saint Catherine of Siena, thereat by the Pope to Lucca to trace the devotion of the city to the papacy in full schism and transfer of the Pope to Avignon, became an important religious center and hosted, among others, Fra Girolamo Savonarola. One of Savonarola's first biographers and dear friend was a Lucchese, Fra Pacifico Burlamacchi, who took the cassock a year before the death of the friar of Ferrara, entering the convent of San Romano. Girolamo's brother Marco, who in turn became Dominican in 1497, known as Fra Maurelio, died in the Convent of San Romano on 28 December 1510 (3). This place had become the guardian of Savoie religiosity at the death of the preacher. Although contrary to the status quo of the church at the time, it was the Dominicans of San Romano who were "vigorously" opposed to the spread of Lutheran heresy.

I Coniugi Arnolfini di Van EyckIn the seventeenth century, the church was again affected by works that transformed the interior, characterized from that moment on by a clear Baroque style. The Church of San Romano has become part of the history of art, as well as for the works carried out for it over the centuries, thanks to Giovanni Arnolfini, the rich merchant and banker of Lucca portrayed in the famous painting by Jan Van Eyck Arnolfini Portrait, who died on September 11, 1472, in his will (opened in Lucca on 10 December 1474) he ordered that the performers should take care of the foundation of a benefit of a daily mass in the Church of San Romano (in theory the mass should be celebrated even today, there was no time limit, but now in the church, which has become an auditorium, no more religious services are celebrated). The chapter of the church had 400 gold florins of Lucca, 357 wide ducats and 8 Bolognini as dowries, in land possessions, a very considerable figure for the time.

History of the Church of San Romano

Chiesa di San Romano - InternoBehind the Palazzo Ducale in Lucca, the Church of Romano was the most important Dominican convent in the city, characterized by an illustrious history, linked especially between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, close relations with Girolamo Savonarola and the environment connected to him. Built in the 13th century, in an area previously occupied by three sacred buildings, the church was enlarged at the end of the 14th century while other more incisive interventions were undertaken starting from the end of the 15th century in the climate of general renewal that affected many city churches, and which culminated with the installation of two altarpieces by Fra Bartolomeo, where a dear friend of his was prior to those times, Saint Pagnini, one with the Madonna of Mercy, the other with the Eternal with Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene. which are now in the National Museum of Villa Guinigi.

Passignano San RomanoThe tomb of San Romano by Matteo Civitali and the wooden choir inlaid still on site date back to this phase. In the first half of the seventeenth century, proceeded to a further reorganization of the interior furnishings that involved both the altars and the related paintings, then entered the church works of famous painters such as the Sienese Francesco Vanni, Domenico Cresti said the Passignano (if you are in Lucca take advantage to see his Nativity in the Cathedral of San Martino) and the Caravaggio Paolo Guidotti. Around the middle of the century there is the most drastic restructuring campaign suffered by the church that came to take on that occasion the structure that still presents today.

San Romano come AuditoriumThe precarious conservation conditions of the building required substantial restoration work, after which the previous structure was cancelled and incorporated into the new one. The paintings of the altars, the result of new commissions, conceal in many cases the previous installations; the decoration of the church was completed in the eighteenth century with interventions in the chapels and presbyteral area. Indemnified during the Napoleonic era, the church was stripped of most of its most precious works, including in particular the two altarpieces by Fra Bartolomeo today preserved in the Art Gallery. Never reopened for worship, this church is now used as a concert hall, suggested by the two precious organs placed in the nave dating from the seventeenth century, the other of older origin but totally tampered with in the nineteenth century.

Chiesa di San Romano - InternoIn recent times the church has been deconsecrated and now, after heavy restoration work, it serves as an auditorium. By the way, it is here that many meetings are held during Lucca Comics.

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1 Memorie del Ducato di Lucca, Volume 4 Di Domenico Bertini

2. Memorie storiche della citta di Pistoja. -Lucca, Filippo-Maria Benedini 1758

3. Scritti vari del Padre Vincenzo Marchese Domenicano Le Monnier 1857





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