Inside the Walls of Lucca

restored Gothic ceiling of the Duomo di San Martino, Lucca
A day trip to Lucca, an ancient city wrapped in Renaissance-era city walls.
After so many weeks of intensive living in Firenze,  the differences of Lucca were to me absolutely charming. Everything about Lucca feels older and more peculiar than Florence.  A smaller, less crowded place, it feels rather open and still, preserved and isolated by its history as well as its fortified walls.
Roman columns adorn the facade of San Michele in Foro
The facade of San Michele in Foro utilizes dozens of ornamental columns salvaged from the ruins of the nearby roman-era amphitheater, and a further collection of patterns in the spandrels above them, while the base and entrance is light and simple, and even modern-looking.

The simple and mystical entrance to San Michele in Foro

Roman amphitheater recycled
Around the Piazza Anfiteatro, which still retains the shape of the Roman amphitheater whose foundations are still hidden beneath it, the homes are built with the memories and stones of many eras.

Spectacular byzantine mosaic atop the austere facade of Basilica San Fredanio
detail of chapel with a self-portrait by  Amico Aspertini

Another mysterious white facade, San Fredanio is capped with a breathtaking Byzantine style mosaic.
Inside, a collection of dream-like scenes tell the story of the  Volto Santo di Lucca, which miraculously found its way to Lucca in 742 AD. This corpus statue was reputedly carved in cedar by Nicodemus, all except the face, which was completed by an angel after the sculptor fell asleep. (This statue is now kept in spectacular fashion in the Duomo di San Martino.)
Housekeepers and those who have lost their keys come to pray to St. Zita, whose body rests enshrined in a glass coffin.
Nearby, an empty chapel is filled with light and faded frescoes.
An empty chapel, painted with quadratura frescoes in the Basilica San Fredanio
The fortifications of Lucca never saw any action until they were converted into a park for biking and strolling and taking in the view. Erling remarked at the endless fun a 10 year old could find in the battlements and tunnels.  Of course we enjoyed exploring them, too.
Lucca's fortifications: a park above, a maze of secret passageways below.

all photos in this post by Lynne Rutter, Lucca, Italy, March 2014
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  1. Next time! That last shot brought back memories of my brother and me running around the old Roman fortress that was in a park in Belgrade when we were there as kids. Had it all to ourselves and it was magic.
    Great shots as always!

    1. beats the heck out of a fort made of sofa cushions, eh?

  2. I can't get over the recycled stone in that wall! That is one of the best examples I have seen. I would love to go to Lucca....another time perhaps.

  3. I just finished reading "The Book of Love," by Kathleen McGowan, based largely on the life of Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Lucca plays a big part in the book, and the Volto Santo di Lucca is mentioned, too. I'm guessing you might have seen references to Matilda in Lucca.

  4. Spent a week in Lucca on a watercolor trip over ten years ago. Such a beautiful city. Love all the tall towers And being able to gaze over the whole city.

    1. A week would be wonderful! We did a lot just in one day (I had to edit this post down or it would take all our bandwidth to post it!) but I'd really love to go back for some time. Especially to paint!


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