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Sant'Alessandro


typology: Church
Area: Piana di Lucca
District/Locality: Lucca

The church of S. Alessandro Maggiore, in the centre of Lucca, is inside one of the insulae (islands) in the ancient net of Roman roads, within short distance of piazza S. Michele in Foro. The church is the perfect prototype of the oldest Lucchese 'Romanesque' architecture and so a bench mark in the study of Medieval Tuscan architecture. The basilica, divided into three aisles and covered by cross vaults has a perfectly semicircular apse. The extremely simple fa├žade is distinguished by its elegant portal and its fine masonry with bands of a slightly darker shade.
Historycal news

The church is mentioned for the first time in 893; in 1071 Pope Alessandro II, previous bishop of Lucca, had the body of Sant' Alessandro I transferred from Rome to the crypt built for this purpose in the church and today filled up with earth. The transfer of the body proves that the Pope had maintained very close relations with his home town and highly respected the ancient predecessor whose name he had taken. Some rather peculiar architectonic features of the building are the reason for all the attention of the critiques who consider it one of the prototypes of XI century architecture. In the XIII century the church played an important role in the civil life of the town hosting the so called 'Curia dei Foretani', i.e. the court appointed by the commune of Lucca to decide of disputes between citizens and peasantry. The cross vaults were built in the XVI century, when the crypt was filled in and the body of Sant'Alessandro moved to the high altar; in the same period larger windows were opened in the aisles. In 1840 Duke Carlo Lodovico had the church restored: the works were directed by Lorenzo Nottolini, while Michele Ridolfi painted the apse in encaustic technique.

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