Lucca Cathedral

Lucca has its share of architecturally interesting churches and the Cathedral (San Martino), which was consecrated in 1070,  is no exception. The campanile is presently under restoration, so there was no opportunity to do another climb to see Lucca from on high.

You can read about the cathedral by following this link, it may provide an incentive to visit Lucca and its cathedral. cathedral


Among the many details to study on the façade is an image of the Saint himself, in the act of cutting his cape in half to share with a beggar. Nice fellow …


The statue is a replica, the original can be seen inside the Cathedral. The sculptor is unknown, and it is thought this is the first in-the-round statue in the history of Italian art.


Do you think that is a representation of Daniel and the lions, just near St Martin’s left shoulder?

To the right of the Cathedral, but hidden by the construction work, is a labyrinth embedded into one of the piers of the portico. It is from the 12th or 13th century.

The incised Latin inscription translates to read: “This is the labyrinth built by Dedalus of Crete; all who entered therein were lost, save Theseus, thanks to Ariadne’s thread” (HIC QUEM CRETICUS EDIT. DAEDALUS EST LABERINTHUS . DE QUO NULLUS VADERE . QUIVIT QUI FUIT INTUS . NI THESEUS GRATIS ADRIANE . STAMINE JUTUS”).

The curious public were given a glimpse of the maze through a little window cut into the construction fence. Thank you, whoever thought of that.

I read that condemned criminals were given a chance to save their necks (literally) if they were able to trace a path to the centre of the maze, in one go. Imagine trying to do that even without the death sentence breathing down your neck!


Tuscany oozes with interesting coats of arms. Here’s another to tantalise those who like to identify these voices from the past.




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53 responses to “Lucca Cathedral

  1. The coat of arms, a bit tougher than last page. The two sapper’s or miner’s axes and maybe the bombard- or cannon-like curlicues of the actual escutcheon, although that might just be my imagination) suggest a military connection. If they’re axes, we’re looking “due asce decussate” and I’ve found nothing online yet. If they’re felt to be pickaxes, that’s not so military; “due picconi decussati” and a quick Google search shows there is in fact a Florentine family by the name of Picconi, with those punning arms. That meager page omits the colors; if we can trust the carver, the color of the field is indicated here: horizontal hatching is the standard representation of azure (blue), although less common hatching systems exist. Best I can do for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew Hall

    We are building a prayer labyrinth in the garden of our church this year. As calmgrove said it is a single route in and out, the walk giving time for prayerful meditation. I’ll send you photos when it’s complete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yvonne if you had not given the information about the cape being cut in half I would have thought the fellow was about to lose his head to the sword! The statue has a much nicer meaning than at first glance. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting story on a maze Yvonne! I am traveling to Tuscany in a couple of months, hence I find this blog very helpful ☺ like the style as well!


  5. I like visiting a maze. It’s fun to get lost and find your way out again. But only if the weather is good. We started the maze at Hampton Court Palace and it started raining so we wimped out and turned back.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m surprised by the ‘sculpture-in-the-round claim’ but I’d need to consult some experts before disputing that… and I may not get round to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lucky criminals: the maze is unicursal, that is, just one path in and out and no blind alleys. This labyrinth type is sometimes called the Christian labyrinth (12 concentric paths, as opposed to 7 for the traditional Cretan maze found in many classical contexts) and sometimes the Chartres labyrinth, after the famous pavement maze in the French cathedral. (There’s another in the form of a roof boss in St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, proof that they come in all shapes and sizes!)

    Saw Lucca’s many years ago, though most visitors passed it by on the way in without being aware of it. I also love the free-standing angel statue on the gable, St Michael I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It had been years since I’ve visited Italy but I’d love to return. Your posts always grab my imagination, thank you Yvonne.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jane

    So whats going on, on the right side under St Martin?

    Liked by 1 person

    • On St Martin’s lower right side, I reckon it’s 2 gryphons, sticking their tongues out at each other, saying “Nyah, nyah”, and then having a sissy fight. The one on the other side seems to be a dragon and a George in a World Wrestling Federation clinch!


  10. Very cool pictures capture some beautiful buildings!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It struck me as really cool that the Saint is cutting just a piece of his cloak for the beggar, and not giving him his whole cloak, as some other stories have that charitable gesture. .

    The Volto Santo lodged here, is an amazing thing to me, with its many legends….I can imagine those medieval pilgrims coming to Lucca to see it, and believing those legends, especially the one about how when Nicodemus the sculptor of the body was asleep, the head itself was sculpted by angels!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have always loved the legend of St Martin and the Beggar. It’s a good story to build a cathedral in honour of.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The lions look like supplicants…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A stunning cathedral. I have spent two holidays in Lucca, each time for a month, and fell in love with that town as well as the little train that goes up into the Garfagnana mountains. Thanks for bringing it home again.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A good maze is better than a boring straight avenue. A life well-lived ought to be a maze, confusion and getting lost the most essential part of living. Finding a way out not the end all. It is the journey! ( see what Italy does, Ivonne?)

    Liked by 4 people

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