The Cathedral of Lucca, named after S. Martino, according to tradition was built at the behest of S. Frediano, the bishop of Lucca, who died in 588.
The Cathedral was completely rebuilt between 1060 and 1070 and then solemnly consecrated in 1070 by Anselmo da Baggio, who had already become Pope Alexander II, in the presence also of Countess Matilda of Canossa. Work continued in alternating phases until 1637, when it ended with the building of the Shrine Chapel.
The façade, inspired by that of the Pisa Cathedral, is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture in Lucca, due to the work of Guidetto da Como, with polychrome marbles, the large portico facing the square with its three arches and the splendid bas-reliefs, depicting the martyrdom of S. Regolo, the cycle of the months and the stories of S. Martino, while in the lunette at the entrance to the left aisle you can admire the exceptional Deposition by Nicola Pisano dating back to 1260.
Under the Cathedral's portico were the stalls of the moneychangers who did business with pilgrims on the Via Francigena, the ancient road to Rome that passes through Lucca: hence a monumental inscription reminding moneychangers not to defraud customers. The mysterious labyrinth carved on one of the pillars may also be a symbol of pilgrimage, or an artistic work related to the Templars, as it is very reminiscent of the one on the floor of the Cathedral in Chartres.
The three-aisled interior is an atmospheric setting, thanks to its Gothic forms, and it preserves many works of art such as the Madonna Enthroned with child and saints by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Last Supper by Jacopo Tintoretto.
The Cathedral also preserves the Holy Face, a wooden crucifix that according to tradition was made by Nicodemus based on the real face of Jesus. The statue was placed in a splendid 15th century small temple by Matteo Civitali.
Another valuable work kept in the Cathedral is the funeral monument to Ilaria del Carretto, created by Jacopo della Quercia between 1406 and 1408: a true marble masterpiece that depicts the young noblewoman, wife of Paolo Guinigi, who died very young in childbirth and the sculptor depicted as a beautiful sleeping maiden, with a small dog at her feet, a symbol of marital fidelity.