Dwight Peck's personal website

Two weeks in Piemonte and Tuscany

in northwest Italy's worst weather in yonks

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

More scenes of downtown Lucca

Lucca 2: the Cathedral San Martin, San Michele in Foro

Wandering lost, we've got reoriented, fairly well, and are approaching the Duomo from the back of it, i.e., from the east; actually, Kristin is scoping out cars with a view to upgrading ours eventually [which, three weeks later, we've just done, a used little Volvo C30 hatchback temporarily named Hjalmar, later just "the cute little Volvo"].

In the Piazza Antelminelli next to the Cathedral, a small street market of antiques and artisanal stuff is in progress.

We'll carry on sightseeing in the Cathedral as soon as Kristin has finished appraising every single item on display.

This is beginning to look like a much bigger street market than foreseen.

Here's the northern side of the Duomo di San Martino and the Piazza Antelminelli, named for the powerful Ghibelline family that in the early 1300s, under the mercenary captain Castruccio Castracani, displaced the Quartigianis as premier oligarchs of the city, until the Guelphs came back and got their turn.

Whilst Kristin is appraising, we'll stroll aimlessly and whistle tunelessly.

The festivities continue through the Piazza San Martino in front of the Duomo, along the back of the Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Reparata, of which more later.

And into the next square, in front of the Church of Saints John and Reparata

The Church of Saints John and Reparata, presently an archaeological museum -- we'll be back shortly.

Stuff continues farther west, into the Piazza del Giglio, in front of the Giglio Theatre and the . . .

Ristorante Giglio

In Giglio Square, I'm looking across the tree-encircled Piazza Napoleone at the Ducal Palace. The Palazzo Ducale was placed on the site of the enormous citadel called Augusta built by a local boy, Castruccio Castracani, a former mercenary captain, or condottiere, the Ghibelline tyrant of Lucca 1316-1328 who bedeviled the Florentines for years, was created Duke of Lucca by the Holy Roman Empire, and came to distrust his fellow citizens enough that he took over this whole quarter of the city for his fortress within the walls (Louis Green, Castruccio Castracani, 1986, pp. 105-12). It was knocked down by a mob in 1370 and then restored by Paolo Guinigi in 1401, wrecked again and then restored again.

The Princess of Lucca and Piombino and Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Napoleon's younger sister Élisa, lived in the palazzo for a while until the English under Lord Wm. Bentinck captured the city in 1814. She built the first city gate on the eastern side of the city, the Porta Elisa.

In Napoleon's Piazza, very cute but chilly kids

The Piazza del Giglio again; where's Kristin got to?

To every city, its Garibaldi!

Back to the Duomo

The Cattedrale di San Martino (the Duomo)

The Cattedrale di San Martino, dedicated to St Martin of Tours: born in now-Hungary, he was a conscripted Roman soldier but later, in 371, was reluctantly made bishop of Tours in France, one of the most venerated saints in Europe in the middle ages and more or less adopted as patron saint of the Merovingian kings in France.

The seat of the Archbishop of Lucca, the building was begun by Bishop Anselm of Baggio (Pope Alexander II) in 1063, on top of an original founded by Bishop Frediano in the 500s. Of Anselm's structure, the apse and belltower remain. The nave and transepts were Gothicized in the 14th century. The façade, begun in 1204, has this fine portico with three arches in it; the right arch had to be squooshed because the belltower was already there.

The galleries are wonderful, and the columns and their capitals really need to be seen with binoculars; they're all different, and some are fairly strange. (According to Wikipedia, there's a legend that the city held a contest amongst artists to create the best design for the columns, then couldn't decide and took them all, didn't declare a winner and didn't pay anybody.)

A 60m cathedral belltower crenellated on top like a defensive tower

The beautiful nave has three aisles and a transept in a Latin Cross.

The ceiling

Halfway along the left nave there is this free-standing octagonal marble temple by the famous local artist Matteo Civitali (1436-1501), made in 1484 to contain the famous Volto Santo of Lucca, or 'Holy Face', a Romanesque wooden crucifix from the 11th or 12th century that had become the city's symbol.

The accompanying legend had it that the cedar crucifix was carved by Nicodemus, who'd helped Joseph of Arimathea put Christ into his tomb, and had miraculously shown up in Lucca in the 8th century. The piece and its legend were widely venerated throughout western Europe (King William II Rufus of England is said to have routinely sworn "by the face of Lucca"), and there were copies of the crucifix and the legend popping up miraculously from England to Germany to Spain, all of them with their associated miracles.

Fairly dusky complexion on him, but it was originally polychrome. The look of surprise and resignation remains enigmatic.

On the back of the little temple, a San Sebastian also by Civitali, who was a accomplished painter and architect as well as sculptor and who shows up all over Lucca in general and this cathedral in particular (there's even a statue of him in the Piazza San Michele).

The altar

The stained glass windows are by Ugolino in the 15th century.

The nave and ambo or pulpit, also by Civitali

In the Sacrament Chapel near the altar, in the right transept, the little angels are by . . . Civitali.

The ceiling in the transept

The winking Jesus

In the sacristy, there is this amazing sarcophagus by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena of Ilaria del Carretto, daughter of the Marchese of Carretto (by Savona), who was married to Paolo Guinigi in 1403 at the age of about 24, as his second wife, and died two years later with the birth of their second child. Ms Ilaria is not actually in there, evidently, but remains in the Guinigi chapel. The dog represents fidelity (nobody was sarcophagized without a faithful dog).

A few decades ago there were bitter legal squabbles about the work of restoration in 1990, but to me it looks fine.

The crazy cult of circumcision again (this is by Ligozzi, whoever that is)

A Last Supper by Tintoretto (we collect photos of Last Suppers in order to figure out what they were eating, but this one is not instructive). The Cathedral also has paintings by Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi, and lots of locals.

The whole ensemble from the front doors

Back out on the street, here's the church of San Giusto, from the late 12th century.

San Giusto, with two lions sticking out in front

We're ferreting round the little street looking for the archaeological church.

Back around the front, with a northward glance towards San Michele in Foro

The 'complesso monumentale e archeologico della cattedrale'

The church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata: the present building dates mostly from the late 12th century, but the original 5th century and then Lombard churches were built over Roman houses, a temple, public baths, a later cemetery, and various subsequent uses.

Presently, archaeological excavations are brilliantly displayed with an audio tour through the various levels and uses the places has been put through.

St Reparata, a virgin from Caesarea in Palestine, was an 11 year old Christian (slightly older in other versions) who refused to renounce the faith during the persecutions of AD 250. She was fairly steadfast: when they burned her alive, a rainshower doused the flames; drinking boiling pitch didn't trouble her unduly; beheading made a greater impression, but a dove emerged and flew away, which was probably her. The angels later brought her to Nice, where she's still the patron saint, and appropriate miracles ensued.

Now we'll commence our archaeological tour, if we can figure how the audio device works.

Subterranean levels under the nave

Former Roman house, baths, cemeteries, paleochristian crypts, you name it.

Roman baths

Kristin contemplating what the aeons have left behind


San Michele in Foro

Now for San Michele in Foro

A previous church was here from the late 8th century, on the site of the Roman Forum ("in Foro") in the heart of the ancient city, but the present church was reconstructed in 1070, with improvements (like the façade) in the 13th century, and of course more improvements by Lucca's Matteo Civitali in the late 15th.

OMG, Mark Knopfler was here, and we missed him! And David Crosby!
And the South Carolina Mass Choir!

The Piazza San Michele, site of the original Roman Forum: the belltower with its odd pattern of windows dates from the 12th-14th centuries.

A Red Cross blood donation drive, overseen by a well-deserved statue of Matteo Civitali

The 13th century façade . . .

. . . characterized by more of the blind arcades and galleries, the 'small loggias', as in the St Martin Cathedral.

The Piazza San Michele

St Michael his own self, watching over his city with his metal wings spread wide

San Michele in Foro

And a no less fabulous Romanesque interior

'Remember, you're next.'

The altar

Kristin scrutinizing St Michael in the Forum: there is also a terracotta Madonna by della Robbia and a painting of Saints Roch, Sebastian, Jerome, and Helena by Filippino Lippi. A great place.

Parts of the original Roman walls of the Anfiteatro as we're marching along dreaming of dinner in La Baralla.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 15 December 2014.

Piemonte and
Nov. 2014