The church of San Francesco
Lucca’s mystical masterpiece spotlights simplicity
The Lucchese church of San Francesco is on the east side of the town, outside its XII century walls. This very simple building consists of a vast hall with brick walls; the roof, supported by trusses, ends with three chapels that have groined vaults. The entrance on the façade is a large portal; above the portal, visitors can appreciate a lunette and a rose window. In the late Middle Ages, the structure of the church remained basically unchanged: only some cloisters and small chapels were added. The presence of Grey Friars in Lucca, in the area outside the walls, is documented as early as 1228. Initially, they occupied the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, but soon, restoration works and the construction of a new complex began.
Soon, around the church and monastery, a convent centre developed, which included the oratory of San Franceschetto (1309), three cloisters and some other minor buildings. The façade of the church is constructed with large white and grey limestone ashlars, arranged in parallel horizontal rows. The decoration of the church is quite simple; this tendency characterized all convent churches. It hosts a row of ornaments in the apse that was originally occupied by terracotta bowls. Throughout the XIV and XV centuries new presbytery chapels were constructed according to the wishes of Paolo Guinigi, lord of Lucca.
After the suppression of monastic orders in the Napoleonic period, the church was given back to the Grey Friars; in 1844, the building was restored, only to pass into public hands once again in 1868, when it was turned into a military depot. In 1902, the church was redeemed by the municipality of Lucca and reinstated as a place of worship. The limestone coating on the upper part of the façade was completed in 1930. Inside the church you can see XV century frescoes of the Florentine school. On the sides of the main entrance, visitors will find the sarcophagi of the Ricciardi and the Guidiccioni monument, created by V. Civitali.