One look is all it takes to grasp the uniqueness of the Church of Santa Caterina within the scope of the ecclesiastical architecture of Lucca: its position, at the intersection of two streets, via Vittorio Emanuele and via del Crocifisso in Lucca, represents a unique case, and gives the church its original curved façade, typical of the Baroque style of which the building is a remarkable example.
The interior structure features an oval plan with entrance on the minor axis and the presence of the grates that once hid the faces of the nuns in prayer are also original.
The church was rebuilt between 1738 and 1748, by the noble architect from Lucca, Francesco Pini, who had redesigned the preceding building founded in 1575.
Inside, there are two marble statues by Giovanni Cybei and by Giovanni Lazzaroni depicting “Charity” and “Purity”. The original canvas that was placed on the high altar, the “Ecstasy of Santa Caterina” by Pompeo Batoni, has been moved to the National Museum of Palazzo Mansi and replaced by the “Madonna with child and Sant’Antonio da Padova” by Giuseppe Bertini.
The cupola, which is open at the centre, is extremely particular. It was fully frescoed by the painter from Lucca, Bartolomeo de Santi, and by the figure drawer Lorenzo Castellotti.
This church was often visited by the female workers of the nearby Manifattura Tabacchi to pray, and for this reason it was known as the “Church of the Cigarette girls”. It remained closed for more than forty years and, in 2014, the restoration work by the Fondo Ambiente Italiano was completed. Today, it is open to the public for concerts, exhibitions and guided tours.