We left the sea behind today and travelled to Lucca which is located in Tuscany. Lucca is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls (1st picture). It was founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony in 180 BC.
Each of the cities we visit has churches that are major tourist attractions. The 2nd and 3rd pictures show the Basilica of San Frediano. Frediano was an Irish bishop in the first half of the 6th century (who later was canonized a saint) and is buried here. The church acquired its present appearance of a typical Roman basilica during the period 1112-1147. In the 13th-14th centuries the striking façade was decorated with a huge golden 13th century mosaic representing The Ascension of Christ the Saviour with the apostles below.
The Lucca Cathedral which is dedicated to St. Martin (pictures 5 – 10) was started in 1063. The nave and transepts of the cathedral were rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century, while the west front was begun in 1204 and consists of a vast portico of three magnificent arches, and above them three ranges of open galleries adorned with sculptures. There is a legend to explain why all the columns of the façade are different. According to the tale, when they were going to decorate it, the inhabitants of Lucca announced a contest for the best column. Every artist made a column, but then the inhabitants of Lucca decided to take them all, without paying the artists and used all the columns.
The next to the last picture is the San Michele in Foro. It was originally built in 795 and was part of the Roman forum. It was rebuilt in 1070. We did not get to go inside it, but it was the meeting place for the tour and we thought it was pretty.
Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini who has been called “the greatest composer of opera after Verdi.” He was born here in 1858 and his house is a historical landmark. They have created a museum and a square in front of his house (that is the statue of him in the square in the picture next to the picture of Don). He has many famous works, La Boheme and Madame Butterfly among them. On the bus after the tour, the guide played us some music from one of his operas. Leslie, ever the goodwill ambassador when she travels said “Oh this is the opera that Julia Roberts goes to in Pretty Woman,” which got quite the look from the Italian tour guide. Clearly this is not the way Puccini would have wanted to be remembered.
The last picture shows a labyrinth that is embedded in the right pier of the portico and is believed to date from the 12th or 13th century. Lucca was an important stop on the mediaeval pilgrimage route from Canterbury (in England) to Rome (and on to Jerusalem if the pilgrim so desired) and this labyrinth marks the Lucca Cathedral as part of this route.