The San Michele in Foro Church is one of the most beautiful and important churches in Lucca. It was built on the site where the city’s Roman Forum used to be. The highlight is Filippino Lippi’s “Pala Magrini”.
San Michele in Foro Church Lucca
Address: Piazza San Michele – Lucca. Opening hours: From 07.40 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 18.00. Entrance: Free.
The earliest document referring to the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro dates back to 795, so the church must be even older. Later, the Gigli family had both the exterior and the interior decorations renovated. The current church is the result of a renovation commissioned by Pope Alexander II in the 11th century.
Since the construction was spread over several eras, the church is an amalgam of multiple architectural influences, starting with the Romanesque style and ending with the Gothic.
The square, along with the Palazzo Pretorio and the other houses around it, date back to the Middle Ages. In those days, these houses were mainly used as retail space. They also practiced silk working.
The two steps and the columns around the church are later additions.
The facade is largely the work of the 13th century architect Guidetto da Como. He was responsible for the portal with the architrave decorated with fantastic motifs. The sculptures and inlays on this facade are probably the work of Diotisalvi. The latter is better known for his work on the Baptistry of Pisa. The loggias are the work of the studio of Guidetto da Como.
Some of the sculptures under the arches on the facade depict important characters from the Italian Risorgimento such as Garibaldi and King Victor Emanuel.
The four-meter high statue crowning the façade is the archangel Michael. In his right hand he holds a lance and in his left hand a globe.
The floor plan is that of a Latin cross.
Matteo Civitali was responsible for the “Madonna and Child” to the right of the entrance.
A second “Madonna with Child” of glazed terracotta near the first altar on the right is probably by Andrea della Robbia.
Raffaello da Montelupo crafted the high-relief depicting the “Madonna.”
The most famous work of art in the church is the so-called Pala Magrini. Filippino Lippi depicted the “Saints Rocco, Sebastian, Jerome and Helena”.
The church was built on the spot where the Roman decumano and the cardo maximo used to intersect and where, therefore, the forum used to be.
In the Middle Ages, before the square was built, a canal used to run here. To enter the church, one had to cross this Fosse Natali via a bridge called Ponte al Foro.
The famous composer Giacomo Puccini once played the organ in the church, as did his father and grandfather.
In 1946, the church was depicted on a 2 Lire stamp.