Il Duomo, San Martino Cathedral, Lucca

Dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours in Lucca,  the construction of this Roman Catholic church began in 1063. The front - a vast portico with three arches -  dates back to 1204. Above you will see three tiers of open galleries with sculptures in each one.

 

 The great apse with its columns and arcade remain from the original construction, but the nave and transept were rebuilt in Gothic style in the 14th-century.

The inside is as interesting as the exterior. Lucca’s most precious relic, The Holy Face of Lucca (Volto Santo di Lucca) or Sacred Countenance is kept in a small octagonal temple shrine built in 1484 by Matteo Civitali, an early Renaissance Luccan sculptor. Legend has it that this cedar-wood crucifix and image of Christ was carved and miraculously conveyed to Lucca in 782. Christ is clothed in the colobium, a long sleeveless garment. 

You can also see the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena It was commissioned by her husband, Paolo Guinigi,  lord of Lucca in 1406.

Additionally, the cathedral contains Domenico Ghirlandaio's Madonna and Child with Saints Peter, Clement, Paul and Sebastian; Federico Zuccari's Adoration of the Magi, Jacopo Tintoretto's Last Supper, and finally Fra Bartolomeo's Madonna and Child (1509).

You will probably notice that all the columns at the front of the church are different. Legend has it that the inhabitants  of Lucca  organised a contest before commissioning them, but instead of choosing one craftsman, they decided to take all of the proposed columns without paying any of the craftsmen

Finally don’t miss The Labyrinth,  cut into a single stone in one of the pillars of the porch at the western end of the cathedral. Allegedly you couldn’t escape from it, without the help of God.  This was undoubtedly inspired by the Cretan Labyrinth,  (built by Daedalus and inhabited by the minotaur),  which only Theseus could find his way out of, thanks to Aridane’s thread. Apparently, The Labyrinth once included images of Theseus and the Minotaur, but these have been rubbed away by thousands of fingers touching the stone so that today there is no trace left.

Like many Tuscan churches,  the marble interior is quite ornate compared with the somewhat plain exterior. But it has paintings, I Santi Anna e Gioacchino con Maria bambina above the main altar,  San Gerolamo and San Joseph, above the left altar, and a canvas of the Madonna in glory between the saints Benedetto and Margherita,  above the right altar. The latter is by Benedetto Brandimarte, a Lucchese painter active between the end of the 16th-century and the beginning of the 17th-century.

Don’t miss the ceramic basins in the apse which can be traced back to the Ligurian production of the 13th and 14th-centuries and the earthen tomb of a child, on the floor, most probably belonging to the noble Luccan Antelminelli family.

 

Myrabella/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Myrabella/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
 Myrabella/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Myrabella/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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