The San Martino Cathedral is Lucca‘s main church and biggest tourist attraction. The highlights among the many sights in the Duomo are the funerary monument of Ilaria del Carretto and the Volto Santo (“Holy Face”). There are also numerous works of art by masters such as Tintoretto and Jacopo della Quercia.
San Martino Cathedral Lucca
Address: Piazza San Martino, Lucca. Telephone: +39 0583490530. Opening times 15 March to 2 November: From 09.30 to 19.00 (Sundays and holidays from 09.00 to 10.00 and from 12.00 to 19.00). Opening hours 3 November to 14 March: From 09.30 to 17.00 (Saturday until 18.45; Sunday from 11.30 to 17.00). The bell tower is open in August and September from 10:00 to 19:00. Entrance fee Cathedral + Ilaria del Carretto Monument: 3 Euro. Entrance fee to the Cathedral + museum + San Giovanni e Reparata Church: 7 Euro. Entrance fee Cathedral + museum + San Giovanni e Reparata Church + bell tower: 9 Euro. Free: Children under 14.
The San Martino Cathedral is said to have been founded in the 6th century by San Frediano, the patron saint of Lucca.
The bell tower, crowned with battlements, was built in the 12th century. It is about 60 meters tall. To reach the top one has to climb 217 stairs.
In 1060 the church was completely rebuilt by order of the then Bishop of the city (and later Pope Alexander II).
The facade was designed by Guidetto da Como in 1204 and is very similar to that of the Cathedral of Pisa.
The entrance is preceded by a portico with three wide arches supported by massive pillars. Above the portico are three small loggias. Since the facade is not completely symmetrical, the arches also have different sizes.
Between two arches there is a copy of the sculpture group, “San Martino Giving His Mantle to a Poor”. The original, sculpted in 1233, is now inside the cathedral.
In the lunette of the central gate is a relief depicting the “Ascension of Christ.”
On the spaces between the doors are depicted “Events from the Life of San Martino” as well as a cycle depicting the months.
The lunette above the right door shows “The Martyrdom of San Regolo.” The one of the left door has as themes “Events from the Childhood of Christ” and an “Assumption of the Throne” made by the workshop of Nicola Pisano.
In the sacristy is a painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio, depicting the “Madonna and Child, between Saints Peter, Clement, Paul and Sebastian.”
On an altar in the right nave is an “Adoration of the Three Kings” by Federico Zuccari and at another altar a “Last Supper” by Jacopo Tintoretto.
In the chapel of the presbytery, a “Madonna and Child among the Saints” by Fra’ Bartolomeo from 1509 can be seen.
Ilaria del Carretto was the young deceased wife of Paolo Guinigi. Her tomb was made in 1406 by Jacopo della Quercia. It was originally located near an altar of the Guinigi family in the south transept. In 1430, when the Guinigi lost their power, all objects referring to the family were removed from the monument. In 1887 it was placed in its present location in the sacristy. Ilaria lies on a marble bed, with her head on a pillow and a dog (personification of marital fidelity) at her feet. It is considered among the highlights of 15th century sculpture.
The wooden crucifix known as the Volto Santo is located in a chapel in the left nave. It was made in 1484 by Matteo Civitali.Legend has it that the crucifix was carved into a Lebanese cedar by Nicodemus. Angels are said to have helped him with the facial features of Christ. After being hidden for a long time, the statue was released in a boat on the open sea. Eventually it washed ashore in front of the Lido of Luni. Here it was placed on a cart pulled by oxen. The animals did not think twice and immediately ran with it to the gates of Lucca.
The “Holy Face of Lucca” was actually probably made between the 11th and 13th centuries. It was originally multi-colored but has now taken on a fairly uniform dark hue.
Three times a year (May 3, and September 13 and 14) the statue is covered with precious gold jewelry. The rest of the year these are on display in the Museo del Cattedrale.