Marvel at the scale and intensity of the Church of San Michele in Foro, the massive Roman Catholic basilica built over an original Roman forum. Gaze at its impressive façade, ascending straight up into the blue Tuscan sky. Its columns and arches lead up to the peak, crowned by a huge sculpture of winged Archangel St. Michael slaying a dragon. The marble itself is adorned with hundreds of small images of creatures both real and fanciful, carved faces and different patterns.
Inspect the famous “loggette,” the semi-enclosed outdoor corridors decorated with colored marble, and the 15th-century Madonna statue on the right side. At the rear of the basilica is the distinctive rectangular bell tower or “campanile.” The structure is a mix of different architectural styles including Gothic and Pisan Romanesque, reflecting the historical ages it has weathered.
This square was the old centre of town life, so the Church of San Michele is right at Lucca’s heart. The site has had a church since at least as early as the 8th century. The structure that you can visit today had its origins in the 11th century and is the product of numerous refurbishments over the centuries. The basilica truly towers over its surrounding square, an effect very much amplified as you emerge from the small surrounding alleys of the old town. While you catch your breath, imagine being a medieval pilgrim coming across the basilica on the Francigena route. Much of Lucca is unchanged since those times.
Move from the spectacular exterior of the Church of San Michele in Foro to the resonant and vast interior, less ornate but no less humbling. Here view the colourful Saints Helen, Jerome, Sebastian and Roch panel by Filippino Lippi, and della Robbia’s enameled relief of Madonna and Child.