The landmark church of Lucca is the elegant-faced San Michele in Foro. Set on the popular piazza of the same name, this is Lucca's most treasured house of worship, dedicated to the archangel Michael. The piazza is placed over the remains of the ancient Roman forum, giving it the name "in foro". A church on this site was recorded as early as 795, but the present structure was started in 1143 and additions and decorations were continually added up until the 1300s.

And what decoration! The intricately carved marble facade is a fanciful sight. It is a highly adorned version of a Romanesque style, completely unique and thus totally charming. The facade is composed of four layers of columns and looks like a wedding cake. Each pillar is different, making you want to gaze on each one and see the variations. Some are inlaid with darker marble, others carved into whimsical designs. Above the rows of columns are friezes of animals, while above the portal is a carving of St. Michael slaying a dragon.

Topping the church is a winged statue of St. Michael flanked by trumpeting angels. Walk around behind to see a surprising sight - a steep staircase that summits the false-front of the church! The interior is a complete contrast to the decorative exterior - spare and gray with little decoration to speak of, except for a colorful painting by Filippo Lippi and a ceramic sculpture by Andrea della Robbia.

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Address in Lucca:

Piazza San Michele.

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