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Lucca origins: pre-roman age

The reconstrucion of Lucca origins is still today subject of debate among historians. Augusto Mancini assigns the foundation of the first settlement to Ligurians.

In fact, according to Augusto Mancini, the toponym Lucca derives from the celtic-ligurian word Luk, that means swamp.

Other historians, like archaeologist Michelangelo Zecchini, reposing on the latest archaeological discoveries, assigns the foundation on Lucca to Etruscans.


The Roman age

In 180 b.C. Lucca becomes a roman colony. In Lucca, in 56 b.C. Caesar, Pompeus and Crassus met and renewed the government pact, called first triumvirate, previously stipulated in 60 b.C.

With the promulgation of the Lex Iulia Municipalis, Lucca, in 89 b.C., was elected to the status of Municipium. We don't know many things about this first phase of the Municipium, since only few documents survived until today.

Among the few of these, we find a letter written from Cicero to Brutus, in which the name of Lucca is quoted:


Lucius Castronius Paetus longe princeps municipii lucensis.
(Cicerone, Epistula Ad Familiares, 13 13).


Lombard Period

After being conquered by Ostrogoths (493) and by Byzantines (552), between 568 and 584 the Lombards arrived in Lucca. In that period (566-568), San Frediano was the bishop of Lucca. In 575, he let a new way open for the river Serchio through the Ripafratta gorge, partially eliminating the problems caused by the river to the city since its establishment. Looting and devastations started, progressively attenuated through an approach between the new conquerors and the indigenous population, thanks to the deep religiosity shown by the Lombards and to the concession of a particular legal condition to lucchesi in the new political status decreed by Lombard kings Autari and Agilulfo.

The Duchy of Lucca was thus founded, archetype of modern Tuscany, including Florence, too (at that time a very small town with no ways of communication).

Later Autari reorganized Tuscany by founding three Duchies: the Duchy of Lucca, the Duchy of Florence and the Duchy of Pisa. The Duchy of Lucca became the usual base of the king and an important crossroads, by the building of Via Francigena. The Lombard domination ends in 990, when Lucca passes to Franks. With the coming of Holy Roman Empire, Florence becomes the new capital of the marquisate.


XI-XIV Centuries

San Michele in Foro

San Michele in Foro,

picture by Tohma, cc-by-sa

When the Marquise Matilde di Canossa dies, in 1115, Lucca, city of merchants and bankers, starts moving its first steps towards independency.

The new born "comune" of Lucca assumes a new order, and the city is divided in five parts, taking the names of the gates: Santi Gervasio and Protasio, San Donato, San Paolino, Santa Maria, Porta Borgo. The city was ruled by two consuls and by a General Council, that usually assembled in the "Parlascio" (former amphitheater).

In 1317 a popular uprising takes out Uguccione della Faggiuola and the people elect general captain Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli, and subsequently duke of Lucca, Pisa, Pistoia, Luni and Volterra.

Castruccio defeats the Army of Florence in the Altopascio battle (1325), following the defeated until the city walls, where the leader orders that three palii should be introduced in the city: "per li ciuchi, li omini a piedi e le meretrici", that is "for infantry, donkeys and prostitutes".

When Castruccio dies, in 1328, Lucca starts a decay period, that will lead the city in the hands of Milan, Genoa, Florence and in the end Pisa.


« [Nel 1330] li lucchesi, vedendosi cosi assediati, e vedeansi perdere lo contado, deliberarono di non voler essere sotto lo Comune di Firenze; ma di darsi a qualche signore che gli aiutasse, e difendesse dai Fiorentini »
(Anonimo Pistoiese, Istorie pistoiesi, dal MCCC al MCCCXLVIII.)


This Sir was Giovanni I di Boemia. Lucca convinces the Emperor Carlo IV, by paying a tribute of 300,000 florins, to enact the liberation of the city. The Emperor, who was passing through Italy, goes down to Lucca and on April 6th, 1369 (Sunday in Albis) signs the liberation act that allows the citizens to constitute the Republic.


Torre Guinigi

Torre medievale dei Guinigi,

picture by Saliko, cc-by-sa

The Guinigi Period

Paolo Guinigi was elected Lord of Lucca on November 21st, 1400, after many confrontations and cross-sold, between the house of Guinigi (supported by the people) and the house of Forteguerra (supported by big traders).

He abolished the Great Council and he founded the State Council, that had the task to assist his political decisions. During this period there was a thrust in silk trade and bank industry.

His power grew thanks to his combined weddings. The most famous wife is certainly Ilaria del Carretto, who married him in 1403. When she died, he commissioned the famous marble sarcophagus to Jacopo della Quercia, now kept in the cathedral.

This was a period of inner and outer peace, thanks to his ambiguous foreign politics. He sweared allegiance to the three popes elected before Martino V, and he welcomed them during thir visits to the city. He had relationships with the Emperor Sigismondo who confirmed him in 1413 Imperial Vicar in Lucca, thus legitimizing his lordship.

The situation fell in 1429 when Florence sieged and looted Lucca, but thanks to Francesco Sforza the city resisted and did not fall under the Florence domain.

In 1418, following the war between Milan and Venice, there was an overturning of alliances at a general level. Florence induced Braccio Fortebraccio da Montone to raid and loot the city. Paolo could not resist and had to pay an outrageous amount to expel the invader. The peace of 1425 between Florence, allied with Venice, and Milan, left Florence armed, and Florence attacked Lucca again, because Ladislao Guinigi, Paolo's son, had helped Filippo Maria Sforza. Florence, led by Niccolò Piccinino devasted the country of Lucca and arrived to siege the walls. The city saved only on Febrauary 28th, 1429, thanks to the presence of Francesco Sforza.

These facts grew the discontent, that led to a conspiracy plot by Pietro Cenami, and Lorenzo Buonvisi threw him down in the night between August 15th and 16th 1430. The senion citiziens made an announcement of a revolt that overwhelmed their lord. The truth was that he was in a jail in Pavia, where he died two years later.

In the meantime, the bank activity grew in town, sustained also by the Jewish presence: in 1431 Angelo di Gaio, a Jewish with origins in Forlì, obtained the permission to settle in Lucca and open a stand.

In 1446 new statutes were published, with innovations about the public education, and it was decided not to found a University, because it would have costed too much.

In the second half of 1400, Lucca was involved in many boundary wars, starting its decay period.

On June 23rd 1805, under request of the Senate of Lucca, was founded the Principate of Lucca and Piombino, assigned to Napoleon's sister, Elisa Bonaparte, and to her husband Felice Baciocchi.


The Duchy of Lucca

The Duchy of Lucca was founded in 1815 by decision of the Vienna Congress, that designated duke Carlo Ludovico di Borbone, with regency to his mother Maria Luisa di Borbone-Spagna. The Congress, in fact, declared, as for the other Italian Republics blown away by Napoleon, not to restaurate the old Lucca Republic, but to mantain the State in life, giving it to the Borboni. The solution was bitterly disputed by Maria Luisa, who asked either the respect of the Napoleonic treaty, that gave her Tuscany, or at least her restauration in Parma, but Asburgo were adamant, sure that they granted, with the Borbonic reintegration in Naples, already too much to a House in evident dacay, reintroduced on the French throne by international armies and unable of any foreign politics, even with its Spanish branch.

The Duchy remained under Austrian military occupation until 1817, when maria Luisa was convinced to accept the facts and gain possession of the State.

The Duchy of Lucca was one of the shortest in Italian history, because a clause specified that, Maria Luigia d'Asburgo-Lorena, duchess of Parma, died, the Emilian Duchy would be assigned back to Borboni, whereas the Duchy of Lucca would be assigned to Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Maria Luisa di Borbone-Spagna died in 1824 and her son gained full sovranity, with the name of Carlo Lodovico. He decided to undertake a politics based on roads enhancement and territorial drainage. In these years the figure of architect Lorenzo Nottolini emerged; he understood the regnants' wishes, and he gave to the city and its territory many of its current features. Carlo Lodovico di Borbone promoted Bagni di Lucca not only as a thermal centre, but also as a metting point for the aristocracy and gentry of entire Europe. In this period was founded the Lucca Casino, one of the first European Casinos. Because of the substantial resources needed to carry out these works, many problems arose, that pushed Carlo Ludovico di Borbone to anticipate the transfer of the duchy of Lucca to the grand duchy of Tuscany in 1847. The duchy included the exclave of Montignoso, too. This passed to the duchy of Modena in 1847.