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Cattedrale di San Martino - see the `true’ portrait of Christ

  • Cattedrale di San Martino - see the `true’ portrait of Christ

    A path from the city walls leads directly to the predominantly Romanesque Cattedrale di San Martino. Inside is a larger-than-life Crucifixion and supposedly the `true’ portrait of Christ. Even from the outside, the Cathedral is dramatic, with a striking façade decorated with a sculpture of St Martin dividing his cloak (the original sculpture is now just inside the church). The inlaid marble designs are classic Tuscan Romanesque, featuring hunting scenes, with dogs, wild boar, and huntsmen on horseback. Flanking the central portal are scenes of the Labours of the Months and the ¬Miracles of St Martin. Inside is an octagonal tempietto containing the Volto Santo (Holy Countenance), one of the most famous relics of medieval Europe. This touching sculpture was supposedly carved by Nicodemus, who witnessed the Crucifixion – hence believed to be a true portrait of Christ. In fact, the highly stylised figure is probably a 13th-century copy of an 11th-century copy of an 8th-century `original’. Each year, on 13 September, this revered relic is paraded through the candlelit streets in a procession that captivates the whole population. Off the south aisle is the Sacristy and an even greater treasure: Jacopo della Quercia’s tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, who died in 1405. It’s a tender effigy, depicting a faithful dog at her feet, waiting for his mistress to awake. As the wife of Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, Ilaria died at the age of 24, following the birth of their second child. You can now climb the Campanile, the bell-tower, a mere 217 steps for sweeping views over the city.

    Address: Piazza San Martino, Lucca
    Web: www.museocattedralelucca.it

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