The Basilica of San Frediano is by far my favourite church in Lucca, it may even be my favourite landmark in general. It is famous because of the large, intriguing mosaic and rare ornamentation on its façade dating back to the end of the 13th century. This Romanesque church in Lucca is situated on the Piazza San Frediano and is one of the oldest places of worship in Lucca. Every year on the 13th of September Lucca celebrates Santa Croce in great style, and always starts in front of the Basilica of San Frediano with with the evocative Luminara di Santa Croce held through the streets of the historic center.
The story behind the Chiesa Basilica di San Frediano
Story goes that the church was founded by the Irish bishop of Lucca Saint Fridianus (Frediano) who was bishop of the city from the year 560 to 588. He dedicated the church to St. Vincent, a martyr from Zaragoza, Spain. After Fridianus passed away he got buried in the church, after which the church was renamed to be Ss. Frediano and Vincenzo. The remains of Saint Frediano lie underneath the main altar.
A one of a kind design
The façade of the Basilica of San Frediano is truly unique, there is only one other façade that’s decorated like this in Tuscany. It catches my eye every single time I pass by, its beauty just obligates you to look at it. The church acquired its present appearance during the 12th century, while the façade was decorated with a massive golden mosaic representing the Ascension of Christ the Saviour during the 13th and 14th century. You can see that the figure of the Virgin is missing which has been removed when the modern window was installed.
The golden mosaic was designed by Berlinghiero Berlinghieri in a byzantine style. From the 14th until the 16th century several chapels decorated with paintings were added.
The inside of the church is built in carved white marble. It features a nave and two aisles with identical arches that are supported by columns with Roman and Romanesque capitals. The Roman capitals were taken from the nearby roman Amphitheatre. The most impressive chapel, if you ask me, is definitely the chapel of the Cross that depicts frescoes from the 15th century Emilion painter Amico Aspertini.
Inside the church you’ll also be able to admire the chapel of Saint Zita (1212-1272) which was a popular saint in Lucca. You’ll find the intact mummified body of Saint Zita on display in a glass shrine, lying on a bed of brocade. On the walls there are several canvases depicting diverse episodes from her life. On the right wall you’ll see the fresco of Saint Frediano depicting the course of the Serchio River.
There are many, many more things to discuss about the Basilica of San Frediano, but honestly you should go and visit this impressive church yourself. It won’t disappoint you.
Why visit the Basilica of San Frediano while in Lucca
Even if you’re not a “church kinda person”, you should definitely go and admire the Basilica of San Frediano while in Lucca. Even though I advise you to go inside, lots of people don’t and just admire this romanesque style church from Piazza San Frediano. On a sunny day just sit on one of the terraces, order a cappuccino, and enjoy the views of the dazzling facade.
Important information before visiting
How to get to the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca?
The church is in the center of Lucca and can be found at the address Piazza S. Frediano, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy. If you click the link a new tab will open with the address ready to be followed in Google Maps.
On the right hand side of the church you’ll find a wheelchair accessible pathway.
A ticket costs 3€ but is well worth the small price.
Every day from 09:00 – 18:00