Pre-roman period
Roman period
Medioeval age
Guinigi family
the towers
Elisa Bonaparte
The architects
Walls and Garden
Teatro del Giglio
The musicians
The holy face
The saints
The writers

Un tratto delle Mura di Lucca tra il baluardo San Colombano e Porta San Pietro

The most intact and priceless part of Lucca's art is without doubt medieval. All of the remaining monuments are well maintained and almost completely intact.

The history of this period includes fortified walls, towers, tower-houses, domus a vita, and churches which characterized the religious life of the city. For an adequate understanding of the richness of the monuments, it is necessary to go back a few centuries and briefly examine the history of Lucca after the fall of the Roman Empire (476 AC), when a period of transition took place. This phase which includes the Late Roman (III - V centuries) and the Early Medieval (VII - IX centuries) periods was characterized by widespread economic - political - administrative upheaval which affected the building industry. Historically, in addition to the decline of the Empire, there were raids by barbarian tribes. Lucca was not spared these, it was actually the destination of various groups of barbarians starting with the Goths, then the Longobards from the middle of the sixth century to middle of the eighth, who made the city the capital of the Dukedom of Tuscia.

Towards the end of the Longobard domination. it was as the capital of the Dukedom that Lucca's fortunes improved, even if it was then taken over again by the Franks until the feudal period when there was a complete rebirth of the economy which was already in good financial conditions. Following establishment of the Communes there was a great period of prosperity in the whole area, particularly in Lucca. But returning to the VII century, after Constantine in 313 and then Theodosius in 380 had granted religious freedom, there was a great expansion of the myriad of churches (within the Roman walls there were 51 between the VIII and IX centuries), some of which are still remain intact in Lucca and have not undergone much restoration work.

Un tratto delle Mura di Lucca con i baluardi San Colombano e San Regolo

The political crisis which had started at the time of Theodosius and which led to the fall of the Roman Empire, had a disastrous effect on the economy and thus on the building industry. This was caused by a complete breakdown of political institutions due to the barbarian invasions and in particular, the Longobards. This population from Scandinavia, had no concept of law or politics and was dedicated to habitual raids, plundering cities to obtain their livelihood. It was during this period of Longobard dominance that Italy was divided into various dukedoms, with the exception of the monarchy in northern Italy where the king had all the power.

Of these dukedoms, of particular mention is Spoleto, and Tuscia, which Lucca became capital of. The Ducal Palace was built outside the Roman walls, near the modern Piazzale Verdi. The Royal Palace (Lucca was ruled by the king) was built to the east of present day Piazza Napoleone. Due to this coexistence of two political centers Lucca became a polycentric city, radically changing its Roman structure with the Forum at its center. The rise of Christianity, the work of Bishop Frediano and conversion of the Longobards led to a strong relationship between the Dukedom and dioceses, which produced powerful ecclesiastical foundations and the high point of Lucca's political and economic life. In addition to the churches, inside the walls were alleys and courtyards, each with portals at their entrances. Outside, the first streets started to form, known as the "rughe di S. Frediano" (wrinkles of S. Frediano): part of Via Fillungo, Via Fontana and Via Anguillara. The cardus maximus, located at the gate to the Roman walls, was modified.

In the early Middle Ages, small villages formed around San Frediano church, the remains of the Roman Amphitheater and San Pietro in Somaldi church. With the creation of these areas, one of the "rughe" became a main street, which separated the area of San Frediano from that of San Pietro in Somaldi and the Amphitheater which were located to the north and south, respectively. In addition, the facade of San Frediano church originally faced away from the city. When the villages began to form during the Middle Ages the position of the facade was inverted and it took the place of the apse.

This was also due to the fact that between 1050 and 1200 the medieval walls were built which stopped development of the north part of the city. During the period of the communes the city's trade flourished, particularly silk (following the route of the Via Francigena) and construction in the city, with the building of towers, tower-houses, domus a vita the architecture of which can still be admired today. The subsequent rule of Castruccio Castracani also had a positive influence, as did that of Paolo Guinigi, during which Lucca reached its maximum splendor.