UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

San Michele in Foro representative of late romanesque architecture in Lucca Wolverton, Muriel Beatrice


The phenomenal expansion of church building during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries can be noted in Lucca as elsewhere. The power of the Benedictine Order and the Bishopric, the increase in wealth because of the silk industry as well as a prime position on the trade route between Italy and North Europe, and rivalries with Florence and Pisa, all promoted a flourishing of the arts in Lucca during the Romanesque period. An attempt has been made in this paper to draw attention to the architectural background in Lucca during the Romanesque period. The architecture appears to be divided into two phases. The first phase demonstrates a classic simplicity that appears to relate to the Early Christian basilical church with the possible intrusion of Lombard ideas. The second phase demonstrates a noticeable change in the facade which becomes a decorative screen with blind arcading, doors and windows with splayed arches and free standing galleries with carving or intarsia in the structural components. The structural and decorative aspects of the facade appear to have been adopted from the school of architecture at Pisa but at Lucca they are stamped with a local exuberance which has a lively and plastic quality not seen at Pisa. There is an underlying classical tradition which appears to be a fundamental characteristic of Tuscan architecture. The use of arcading, intarsia and sculpture, all of classical heritage when adopted at Lucca, seem to find closer parallels in the Eastern tradition. Super-imposed levels of arches are used in Lombard and Saracenic architecture and appear at Lucca as a reflection of the facade of the cathedral at Pisa. The spandrel intarsia decoration varies from that at Pisa and seems to reflect the designs of Byzantine and Saracenic textiles, on the other hand, the columnar intarsia at Lucca appears to have parallels in the architectural decoration adopted by the Normans after their defeat of the Arabs in Sicily. The carved relief of the columns finds still other parallels in Lombard, Byzantine and Saracenic work. The decoration of the facades of San Martino and San Michele at Lucca indicates, however, that if the concept was of Eastern origin there was no direct adoption of any particular prototype but interpretation perhaps even second hand interpretation which resulted in a mode of expression that remained unique to Lucca.

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