Holy face of Lucca

Have you ever heard of the Volto Santo di Lucca?

Before going to Lucca and meeting this enormous Crucifix (yes, I actually say I met it), I had heard about it many times: from customers here and there; but without ever delving much into the topic. The fact is that two years ago, during our holidays in Tuscany, we stopped in Lucca and, without even remembering this crucifix, I practically found myself in front of it! It is kept in the cathedral of San Martino, protected by a kind of highly crafted temple; I can't think of another way to call the structure that protects it and enhances its importance.

Among the traceries of the temple you can see the crucifix (but alas the photos are really ugly) which immediately amazes with its size (it is almost 3 meters high) and captivates the eye, for its extreme simplicity and for a magnetism that I don't know describe, but moves. Reading about the crucifix, I was fascinated by the story: Christ was sculpted in wood by Nicodemus, a Pharisee, nocturnal disciple of Jesus, who collected the body from the cross, wrapped it in the Shroud and placed it in the tomb. He thought about imprinting the image of Jesus in his memory and delivering it as he had left it, but once he manages to sculpt the face of Christ, he fails, he stops and falls asleep. When he awakens he discovers that the face of Jesus was completed by a divine hand and for this reason the Holy Face of Lucca is considered an acheropita image (not the work of a human hand).

Already here there are all the elements to justify the truly particular sensation you feel when standing in front of this work; but going forward with the history of this Cross the matter is even more surprising: at the end of 700 AD. the cross was found in Jerusalem; following a vision, a bishop on a pilgrimage decided to shelter the sculpture from infidels: for this reason he embarked it on an unmanned ship which miraculously crossed the Mediterranean unscathed, reaching the Tuscan coast. Once it landed in the port of Luni (a city now destroyed but at the time a lively port town) the boat with its Crucifix was not approached either by criminals or by citizens; the only one capable of recovering the boat and its precious cargo was the bishop of Lucca who rushed there, alerted by an angelic apparition. Obviously between the city of Lucca and the city of Luni there was war to grab the sacred vessel; to resolve the issue it was decided to load the crucifix onto a cart pulled by two oxen; the animals, expressing the divine will, will decide in which direction to take the sculpture; this is how the Holy Face reached Lucca.

One of the things that further struck me, and which tells of the very strong bond between the Holy Face and the citizens of Lucca, is that, hidden in the door of the cathedral, there is a small peephole so that even at night, anyone who wanted to look at the Face Saint and pray could be done even when the cathedral was closed. It is difficult to describe the emotion you feel when looking at this work, but I hope I have at least made it clear that it is absolutely worth a dedicated journey; Lucca, moreover, is a very beautiful city, full of historic shops.

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