Originally there were only three city gates that gave access to Lucca. Later, three more gates were opened into in the city wall. In addition to these large gates, one could also enter the city through the so-called posterle of the strongholds.
Lucca city gates
The three original city gates were the Porta San Pietro, the Porta Santa Maria and the Porta San Donato, which were built in the 2nd half of the 16th century. They all had drawbridges and, both on the inside and outside, an iron slab.
Only in 1811 was a fourth gate opened in the wall, called Porta Elisa in honor of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi. This gate no longer had a defensive function, but was intended as a sort of triumphal arch.
In 1911 and 1931 respectively the Porta Vittorio Emanuele and the Porta San Jacopo were added.
The gates of Lucca
Porta Santa Maria
The Porta Santa Maria is the northern entrance gate. Its construction lasted from 1549 to 1592. The designer was Cinese Bresciani, but the work was carried out by Michelangelo Gabrielli. Originally this gate had a single opening, now there are three. The middle one is for pedestrians, the other two are for vehicular traffic. Above the arches are three niches. The middle one contains a statue of Mary. The panthers in the outer niches are the symbols of the city of Lucca. From 1884 to 1932 a streetcar line used to pass through the gate.
Porta San Pietro
The Porta San Pietro is the southern entrance gate. Designed by Alessandro Resta, it was built between 1565 and 1566. Above the central one of the three openings hangs a shield with the coat of arms of St. Peter. In the niches on either side of this are two lions. In the past, these openings were used for the chains of the drawbridge. The side entrances were built later and are only used by pedestrians.
Porta San Donato
The Porta San Donato is the western city gate. It was built between 1629 and 1639. This gate also used to have a drawbridge. The statues on the sides depict San Donato and San Paolino. This San Donato city gate replaced a version from 1590, which belonged to the former wall. This older gate is still standing and can be seen near today’s Piazzale Verdi.
The neo-classical Porta Elisa was built between 1809 and 1811. It was named after Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, who had married the nobleman Felice Baciocchi against her brother’s wishes. In the Renaissance era, fearing an attack by mighty Florence, people did not want an entrance gate on the east side of the city. Princess Elisa had many public works carried out at that time, often against the will of the city’s inhabitants. There was also supposed to have been a Via Elisa, but it was never completed. Fortunately, because otherwise many historic buildings would have had to have been demolished.
The Porta Sant’Anna is actually called Porta Vittorio Emanuele. The name used by the people of Lucca comes from the nearby Sant’Anna Church. It is located on the west side and was built to relieve the already existing Porta San Donato. In order not to ruin the view from the Baluardo San Donato, the Porta Sant’Anna was kept very low.
Porta San Jacopo
The Porta San Jacopo is located on the north side of the city. It was built in 1930, during the fascist period. An inscription from this time was later removed, but now partially readable again.
Older City Gates
Apart from the gates in the current city wall, there are still some ancient ones standing. These are the old Porta San Donato, the Porta San Gervasio and the Porta dei Borghi.