On this site, in the first half of the 6 th c, Frediano, Irish Bishop of Lucca, had a church built and dedicated to St. Vincenzo, deacon of Saragozza, Spain, and martyr (c.304).
Following his burial here, the church originally commissioned by him was given the new title of Ss. Frediano and Vincenzo. Around this church, priests of the diocese gathered to form a community of Augustinian canons.
The church and adjacent Canon House were enlarged during the Longobard era. In 1104, Pope Pascal II recognized their order and entrusted the clergy of the patriarchal Basilica of the Holy Saviour (St. John Lateran) to their supervision.
In the 12thc, Prior Rotone gave the building its current appearance, that of a typical early roman basilica, inverting the apse in order to accommodate the urban expansion of Lucca within a second ring of walls. The facade was decorated with the mosaic of “The Ascension of Christ the Saviour” in the 13th-14thc.
The figure of Our Saviour seems to recall the title of the Lateran Basilica. Following this, because of its numerous dependent communities, the Prior of St. Frediano was accorded a rank equal in dignity to that of the Bishop. In the 14th – 16thc, several chapels of the nobility, serving both devotional and burial purposes, were opened, involving the widening of the facade beyond the three central sections.
What appears to be a five nave structure is, in fact, only three; the arches are supported by austere columns topped by roman and romanesque capitols. Here the people of God – His Church – assemble to hear the Word of God and to celebrate the Sacraments, especially that of the Eucharist on God’s day – Sunday. The holy water basins, holding the blessed water with which the sign of the cross is made in recollection of baptism, date from the 15th – 16th c.
16th c. organ built by D. Di Lorenzo; 17th c. choir; to the right of the main door: ‘Visitation’ by A. Ciampanti, 16th c. ; to the left: “Virgin and Child with Saints” by A.Aspertini 16thc. Nave: above the baroque pulpit, remains of a 12thc fresco of “The Martyrdom of the Levite Saints” to whom the altar of the original basilica was dedicated (from L to R: Ss.Lawrence, Vincent, Stephen); on the columns: St. Stephen and St. Helen (better observed after visiting the Trenta Chapel).
Adjacent to the righthand aisle: small baptismal aisle containing a 12thc font consisting of a covered bowl re-
sting on pillars inside a circular basin, the masterpiece of three sculptors: the Master of the Story of Moses, Master
Roberto (signature on basin), and the Master of the Months and the Apostles; at the top end: baptismal font, adapted from a sacramental altar by Matteo Civitali, 15thc; in the niche: “Baptism of Christ” by L.Castellotti, 18thc.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, one is reborn in Christ, becoming part of His Body, the Church. On the wall: “Annunciation” and “St. Bartholomew”, glazed terracotta lunette by the Robbiana School, 15thc; above the door of the Chapel of Mercy: “Virgin Mary with St. Richard and St. Zita” 13thc.
Counterfacade: remnants of various 14thc frescoes depicting St. Peter enthroned among saints, and scenes from the Passion of Christ.
Zita, humble servant of the Fatinelli household, is the popular saint of flowers and charity (*1218 – 27 April 1278); on the altar: a glass urn containing the uncorrupted (not embalmed) remains of the saint; above: 16thc canvas by Paolo Guidotti; on the chapel walls: 17thc canvases by F. Del Tintore depicting episodes from the life of St.Zita.
Cenami, or St. Blaise, Chapel (also known as the Chapel of the Holy Blood): 17thc affrescoes depicting scenes from the life of St. Blaise by G. Lombardi; on the right: “Nativity” by P. Sorri, 1608; on the left: “Deposition” by P. Guidotti, 16thc; above the altar: Glory and tabernacle by G. Baratta, 18thc; contains the precious Relic of the Holy Blood, found, according to tradition, on the face of the Volto Santo, brou
ght to Lucca from Jerusalem (cf: the Chapel of the Cross); underneath the altar: sarcophagus of the Blessed Corrado, Bishop of Lucca (935 – 964). Sandei, or St. Agnes, or Annunciation, Chapel: rem nants of 14thc frescoes; above the altar:
“Annunciation” 17thc canvas by Gaspare Mannucci; on the right: St. Mi chael, canvas signed Camillo Ciai of Florence,1665; on the left: “St. Appollonia, Martyr” canvas signed “Girolamo Scaglia, of Lucca, 1646”.
Micheli-Guinigi Chapel: Here, the Holy Sacrament, the Book of the Word of God, and the Sign of Brotherly Charity are kept together to remind us of the threefold dimension of Christian life: the Word of the Lord, the Sacraments, and the Witness of Charity.
above the altar: “Crucifixion” 12thc fresco transported from the nearby cemetery and cloisters of St. Catherine’s; according to local tradition, St. Zita used to bring gifts and pray in front of this image of Our Lord; at the far end of the chapel: “Assumption” or “Madonna della Cintola”, referring to sash unfoldingbelow the Virgin, – wooden altarpiece by Masseo Civitali, 15thc; set in the pew: Confessional box for the individual Rite of Reconciliation or Confession of Sins.
Top of the right aisle: neoclassical monument dedicated to Lazzaro Papi, by L. Pampaloni, 19thc; above the altar of St. Fausta: canvas of the martyrdom of the saint by P. Sorri c.1595.
Sacristy (not always open to visitors): carved pews; can vases of Saints, Popes and members of the Order of The Regular Lateran Canons linked to the Augustinian priory of the church of St Frediano; recently found affrescoes from the 14thc ; furnishings from the Basilica and mo nastery.
Main Altar: 16thc; underneath the altar lies St. Fredia no, Irish Bishop of Lucca b. 18 March 588; This altar is used for the celebration of the Maas Sacrifice, focal point of all ecclesiastical ceremonies, and is thus treated with particular reverence. The lectern, from which the Easter proclamation of the Word of God was made; in the “presbytery”: remnants of 12thc Cosmati paving. Apse: “Holy Eucharist and Adoring Angels” , 15th C af fresco recently discovered.
Top of the left aisle: altar dedicated to St. Cassius, Bishop of Narni; canvas signed by A. Lomi, 1595; monolith, according to local tradition miraculously transported to Lucca by St.Frediano and used as a predella for the early Christian altar; underneath: stone oxen and fallen capitols, 8thc; lid from the sarcophagus which contained St. Frediano. Trenta Chapel: Marble polyptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints, a 15thc masterpiece by Jacopo Della Quercia. Below the altar: 2nd C Roman sarcophagus with the mortal remains of St.Richard, an English “king” who died here on pilgrimage to Rome with his sons and daughter in 722. His sons, together with St. Boniface, became evangelists in Germany – Willibald was the first Bishop of Eichstatt; In front of the altar: marble floor tombstone of Lorenzo Trenta and his consort, by Jacopo Della Quercia, 15thc; Opposite the altar “Annunciation”, 15thc wood polychrome sculpture by Matteo Civitali; on the dividing pillar: St. Peter Apostle, by Vincenzo Civitali, 16thc. (now is the opportune moment to observe the frescoes in the nave)
Gentili Chapel, or Chapel of Hope:
Altar: “Glory of cherubs with St Philip and St James” (the apostles to whom the Chapel is dedicated) by G. Cecchi 18thc; “Our Lady of Hope”, 16thc fresco, moved from a niche in the Frediani courtyard in adjacent via Anguillara.
On the walls: (left) “Visitation” and (right) “Flight into Egypt” by G. Martini, 1824.
Chapel of the Cross or of St. Augustine or of The Relics: splendid frescoes (1508-9) by A. Aspertini, On the right: 1. St. Frediano draws the new course of the River Serchio while vain attempts are made to stem the flooding; 2. Nativity; Lunette: St. Augustine presents his Rule to his canons; On the left: 1.Transportation of the Volto Santo from Luni to Lucca by the Blessed Giovanni, Bishop of Lucca; 2. St. Ambrose baptising St. Augustine; Lunette: Deposition of Jesus in the tomb; On the wall behind the altar: Universal Judgment; vault: The Eternal Father, surrounded by angels, prophets and sybils; ar ches: St. Fausta, St. Richard, St. Cassius and St. Zita; above the altar: “Volto Santo, St. Augustine, St. Ubaldo (Bishop of Gubbio, of the Augustinian order)” anonymous canvas, 17thc. On the floor: tombstone made for Prior Cenami and his monks, 1506.
In this chapel, behind the canvas and in lateral cases, a number of relics are preserved, amongst which there is the Title of the Cross and the mortal remains of the Bles sed Giovanni, Bishop of Lucca, 781-801, who, according to tradition, welcomed the image of the Volto Santo to Lucca, offering it its first resting place here in this chapel. Corridor of the door “of the Guardian Angel” (so called because here St. Zita was given back her mantle): “Virgin and Child with Saints”, and 16 thc painting re presenting the “genealogic tree”, of the Canonical Order of the Laterans – CRL – which originated in Lucca in S. Frediano.
Buonvisi Chapel, or Chapel of St. Anna: constructed in the 16thc, the decoration dates from the XIXc. Above the altar: “St. Anna adores the Child” by S. Tonfanelli, first half of the 19thc; to the right: “Birth of Mary” by A. Cecchi, first half of 19thc; to the left: “Death of St. Anna” by B. Rocchi, first half of the 19thc; right-hand wall: monument to the Cardinals of the Buonvisi House: Bonviso, Gerolamo and Francesco; left-hand wall: monument to the Montecatini family, heirs to the Buonvisi House when the latter’s name was extinguished in the nineteenth century.
Chapel of Mercy (not always open to visitors): con structed in the 15thc. Above the main altar: “Our Lady of Mercy” – fresco signed “Giuliano di Pisa, 1510”. On the right-hand wall: paintings of St. Catherine of Alessandria, by Giuliano di Simone, 14thc and St. Barbara 15thc; Our Lady “detta Colonna” 14thc, and “Our Lady of Rest”, fre scoes transported from the nearby cemetery and cloisters of St. Catherine’s; at the back: romanesque columns and the 13thc Guidiccioni tombs – on the right-hand tomb, note one of the oldest existing vernacular inscriptions: (trans.) “Descendants of Lord Aldibrando and his brother Pagani no/ called the children of Guidiccioni / Lie in this grave/ For their good works / Pray God that he may pardon them / In this lie the men / and in the other, the women / in MCCXC / May the Holy Virgin watch over them.” On the left-hand wall: 16thc cusped painting of “the Virgin and Child with saints”; 18thc canvas of the miracle of St Blaise – from the chapel of the same name – by G. Di Ferrucci.
May God bless you and keep you
Watch over you and grant you peace
With this prayer, the Christian community
of the Historic Center of Lucca
wish you farewell .