The Extraordinary Jubilee that Pope Francis first inaugurated in Central Africa, and then in Rome on 8 December 2015, is characterised by the opportunity granted by the Pope to every diocese to choose - in their area - "particular churches" in which to receive a plenary indulgence. And with our curiosity sparked, we've decided to explore each corner of Tuscany to find the churches that will open these "Holy Doors", because finally, with the excuse of an indulgence, we will find the time to visit them. In this article, we'll cover the dioceses of the north, those in Lucca and Massa Carrara - Pontremoli.
We're inaugurating our pilgrimage with Lucca. The city of a hundred churches lives up to its name, surprising us with an unusual choice. Rather than focusing on the Duomo or on one of its great basilicas, the territory has decided to throw open the "Holy Door" in the small Church of San Giusto, built on the foundations of a previous church dating from the second half of the twelfth century.
Architecturally divided into three naves with an apse, its facade features two colours in the upper section, where dense bands of white marble begin just above the main portal and continue in the wall of the nave, which is arranged in overlapping loggias. The portal is particularly special, one of the most important from the Guidetto workshop, both for its quality and for its decorative details, including the twisted telamons that support the two lions overhanging from the sides of the lunette and the two masks of classical style.
Moving to the area of Massa Carrara & Pontremoli – and thus strictly following the denominations and geographical variations of the Catholic Church - we discover that Massa has made a more expected choice, deciding to receive the Jubilee at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Francis. The building, already visible in some opinions in the end '500, was built according to documents from the remains of the former convent of San Francisco and was consecrated in 1389, as outlined in the plaque in the Chapel of the Stigmata. However, it was designated a cathedral only in the early nineteenth century, as the ancient Cathedral of Massa, situated opposite the Palazzo Ducale, was demolished at the behest of Napoleon's sister. The facade is a reconstruction dating back to 1936 based on a project by Cesario Fellini. Architecturally, the cathedral is composed of a nave and two chapels on the right, one of the Stigmata and one of the Blessed Sacrament. A door leads to the underground Cybo-Malaspina burial chamber, where the urns of Massa's most important citizens reside. Inside are numerous art works, including paintings by Pinturicchio ('Madonna with Child') and Maratta, in addition to marble altars by Bergamini and an altarpiece by Andrea and Tommaso Lazzoni.
The last leg of our short pilgrimage in Northern Tuscany brings us to Pontremoli, more precisely to the Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, whose construction was ordered by the city's General Council on 7 July 1630, with a decree to establish the erection of "a temple that is as sumptuous and noble as the people can make it (...) in place of the Church of Santa Maria di Piazza". Work began in 1636 on the designs of architect Alessandro Capra and was completed in 1687. The church was proclaimed a Cathedral on 4 July 1787 by a bull from Pope Pius VI on the establishment of the Diocese of Pontremoli. The Cathedral is a significant example of the dictates issued by the Church against the Reformed, which were enshrined in the Council of Trent and encoded exemplary Jesuit structures. Pontremoli's Santa Maria follows the decreed plan: a single wide nave with side chapels and a short transept topped by a tall and luminous dome at the intersection of its arms.