Lucca panoramic view
The history of Lucca
A Latin colony since 180 A.C, Lucca has preserved intact many of the characteristic traits of those ancient days. The ancient Roman amphitheatre, still maintaining its typical form of closed elliptical square; the Roman forum, that was located in the nowadays square of San Michele (Saint Michele), and dominated by the eponymous Roman cathedral - many of their architectonic components remind us of the classical style. But the most evident trace of Romanesque influence can be found in the streets of the city´s historical centre - the rectangular grid of the Fillungo-Cenami and San Paolino-Roma-Santa Croce streets preserves the typical Roman street layout, consisting of the "cardo" and "decumano".
The construction of the first fortified ring of walls around the city - also corresponding with the Roman era - limited that part of the city where, through the passing of centuries, was centreed the pillar of the political power (nowadays Ducal palace/ Palazzo Ducale), and the religious centre of the region: Cathedral of St Martin (Chiesa di San Martino), Saint John Baptistery (battistero di San Giovanni), and the church Santa Reparata.
Conquered by the Goths in 400 and by the Byzantines in the next century, the history of Lucca of those days was mostly characterized by the factor of its being one of the most important capital cities of the Longobards reign. Thanks to the presence of Volto Santo (Holy Face) in the Chiesa di San Martino (Cathedral of St Martin), and the Pilgrimage route of Via Francigena (one of the most important medieval communication ways), Lucca became an important stopover in the pilgrimage that led from Rome to Canterbury. However, there are very few evidences of that historical period left.
In 773 ended the Longobards reign in Lucca, and - after the defeat of the dukes of Lucca by Carlo Magno - the reign of Carolingi dynasty started. During this historical period Lucca consolidated its prominent position acquired during the Longobards reign, increasing its prosperity - thanks to the expanding commercial activities and the developing of the textile industry, owing to which Lucca soon became famous throughout the Europe.
The growing textile production instigated the economic development of Lucca; thanks to the introduction of the silk manufacture, Lucca acquired even more influence on the markets of Europe. The manufactured products were of supreme quality owing to the finesse of the fabrics and the beauty of the decorations.
During this long period of economic, cultural and artistic expansion the facade of Cathedral of St Martin - as well as the second fortified ring of walls (1100-1200) around the city- were built. The perimeter of the city was increased - from 3 sides, excluding the part from the Pisa side. Lucca e Pisa collided several times - until in 1314 the Ugoccione della Faggiola of Pisa conquered Lucca, that was weakened by the political instability of the Guelfs, and the internal conflicts between merchants and artisans. After the defeat Lucca lost the monopoly of the textile market.
Huge political/ economic instability quickly (2 years after, in 1316) developed into a public riot, guided by Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli (Lucca´s condottiere), who drove out the Pisans and Ugoccione, and became the new lord of Lucca. Castruccio consolidated the Ghibellin power, twice defeated the Florentines, but after his death the Duchy of Lucca entered in a decadence period. Various governors followed - among which Paolo Guinigi, who was deposed and condemned in 1430 by the fellow citizens of Lucca.
In the second part of the 14 and at the beginning of the 15 century the third fortified ring of walls was built - as a result of truce concluded with Florence. Lucca again finds economic and political stability, and blossoms into a "new era of artistic development". One of the most prominent artists of those days is, undoubtedly, Matteo Civitali, who was a leading artistic personality of the Renaissance in Lucca.
The willing of the Lucca´s inhabitants to preserve the achieved economic and cultural growth converted many merchants into bankers; the movements of capital from merchants´ activities to land property transformed the entire market as well. At this point the reconstruction of the city´s fortified walls was started - in order to protect the city´s status quo. The last fortified ring of walls (1544-1645) is the very one which up to today´s overlooks - intact - the historical centre of Lucca, having never endured any military attack.
The 1600 century was marked by the activity of various painters in the artistic life of Lucca; the most prominent of them- Pietro Paolini and Paolo Guidotti. Continued the transformation of the economic activities of the region: there was more and more transition from silk trade to bank and agricultural activities.
During the 1700 the activity of the textile market was practically nonexistent, and the agricultural market situation worsened as well - causing the crisis of the political system. Despite of all the problems encountered, Lucca was still a very popular "model" city. Having been an independent republic for several centuries (up to 1799), Lucca was a very peaceful and advanced region.
In 1805 the reign of Elisa Napoleon (the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte) marked the beginning of neoclassic era. She reigned until the fall of Napoleon´s regime, focusing on the revival of culture and artistic life of the city. After the fall of Napoleon (1815) Lucca became a Bourbon duchy, reigned first by Maria Luisa, and then by her son Carlo Ludovico. Maria Luisa promoted many artistic and urbanistic undertakings - entrusting many of them to the architect Lorenzo Nottolini: construction of the aqueduct, reconstruction of superior part of the last ring of fortified walls as a public walkway, rearrangement of the Ducal palace. Carlo Ludovico, in his turn, opened the Amphitheatre, but his other activities were very few, and otherwise his reign was politically and artistically indistinct.
In 1847 Carlo Ludovico ceded the duchy of Lucca to Tuscany, to the Grand duchy Lorenese - making the city lose its secular independence. The historic events of later centuries were of less cultural and urbanistic importance. The only person worth mentioning in relation to this period of the city´s life is Giacomo Puccini, who expressed the musical spirit of Lucca.