A precious San Michele in Lucca

The Church of San Michele in Lucca is extremely ancient and is founded on the ruins of the forum of Roman Luca.

The first documents show that the church was active by the 8th century, but the current, fanciful form dates back to the 12th century. Its style is a marvellous mix of Romanesque – Gothic – Renaissance….but it is that “rebirth” of the Antique that makes this church a true object of classic design and certainly the first “neoclassical” design in the Vitruvian sense of the word. But our attention must go to the statue of St. Michael positioned like a huge acroterium on the top tympanum.

A magnificent stone sculpture reinforced by bronze metal elements that have gained a turquoise patina, giving the sculpture a rather divine sense, intrigues us with its precious materials that decorate the eyes (his and those of the dragon) and the drapery with pietre dure including Porphyry, Serpentine, Agate and Cornelian.

Indeed, popular legend would have it that a diamond or an emerald was set in a ring or in the decoration on the drapery, which at a certain time of day would gleam blindingly when the sun shone on it. Many members of the old guard report to have seen the twinkling alchemy. The only real fact is that this marvellous statue has precious and semiprecious stones encrusted on it, including a sapphire-like agate for his eyes, brown chalcedony for the buttons, Porphyry and Serpentine together with lapis lazuli and pâtes de verre decorate the clothes and orange Cornelian fills the dragon’s eyes. In the near future, I hope to carry out a deeper investigation of it with new, more specific photographic equipment.


Translation of an extract from Marmorari Magistri Romani di Dario Del Bufalo. Roma, L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2010

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