Sigeric the Serious: Via Francigena, Luca, Circa 990 AD

Submansio XXVI – Luca

Lucca (Luca in latin) was founded by the Etruscans around 700BC and was then colonized by the Romans around 180 B.C. The rectangular grid of Lucca’s historical city center preserves the Roman street plan, with the Piazza San Michele which occupies the site of the ancient Roman forum, and the elliptical shape of the amphitheater which may still be seen in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro.

Lucca is also known for a conference in 56 BC, where Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance known as the 1st Triumvirate.


With the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Lucca and the rest of Italy saw in 476 their first Barbarian King: Flavius Odoacer. Despite its fortress, Lucca was then briefly besieged in 553 by Narses, general of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, then fell under the hands of the Lombards and became one of the most important capitals of the Lombard Kingdom. Thanks to the presence of the Holy Face in the church St. Martin, Lucca became a main stop on the Via Francigena, one of the most important roads of the Middle Ages.


Medieval miniature, Ugo dux (Hugh the Great)

Hugh called the Great, was the Margrave of Tuscany from 969 until his death in 1001. He restored the state apparatus in Tuscany after decades of neglect by margraves whose main interests lay elsewhere. Hugh supported the new Ottonian dynasty and was praised for his justice by the contemporary theologian Peter Damian in his De principis officio (On the Office of a Prince).

The Holy Face of Lucca (also called Volto Santo) is a major relic supposedly carved by Nicodemus, a Pharisee mentioned in the Gospel of John. The cross is said to have arrived in Lucca in 742, so if the story is true Sigeric would have seen it with his own eyes. The present Holy Face itself is an early 13th-century copy of the original ascribed to the circle of Benedetto Antelami. It is said that the original was chipped away beyond repair by relic-seeking pilgrims.



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