An independent city of Tuscany that produced many renowned Renaissance artists, scholars, and musicians. The Roman town of Lucca became the capital of a duchy in the sixth century, and then in 1162 an independent commune. Lucca prospered as a center of textile industries, the silk trade, and banking. It enjoyed the privilege of coining its own money and remained independent of Florence, the strongest power of Tuscany, although it also experienced periods of rule by tyrants. A condotierre named Castruccio Castracani took power in Lucca in 1316 and made the city a worthy rival to the military and economic power of Florence (later Niccolo Macchiavelli would commemorate Castracani's rule in his writings on able political leaders). The city was seized by kings of Bavaria and Bohemia, and sold to and from aristocrats of Genoa, Parma, and Verona. In 1628 an oligarchy took power, which managed to keep the city independent until its conquest by Napoléon Bonaparte in the early nineteenth century.
The Cathedral of San Martino served as the center of religious life in Lucca since it was first constructed in the sixth century. The building underwent construction throughout the medieval period. Its interior chapels hold several significant works of Renaissance art, including paintings by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Tintoretto, and a carved sarcophagus by Jacopo della Quercia. The latter artist also created an altarpiece for the Basilica of San Frediano.
Lucca is also known for an impressive set of walls that have survived intact to the present day. The city was surrounded by strong walls since its time as a Roman colony. High towers were also raised throughout the city to serve as defensive strongholds for aristocratic families. In 1544, with Florence menacing Lucca with conquest, the walls were strengthened with a series of bastions, ditches, underground rooms, and ramparts—a project that took more than a century.
See Also: Florence
LUCCA , city in N. Italy. It was probably in the ninth century that the *Kalonymus family settled in Lucca and founded a talmudic academy there. In the year 917 members of the family moved to Mainz, thereby establishing talmudic studies in the Rhineland. In 1145 Abraham *Ibn Ezra wrote some of his works in Lucca. When *Benjamin of Tudela visited the city about 20 years later, he found some 40 Jewish families. Around 1431–32 Angelo di Gaio (= Mordecai b. Isaac) of Forlì opened a loanbank at Lucca; later the poet David b. Joab of Tivoli settled there. When the opinion of Savonarola was asked, he stated that while Jews should not be invited in order to lend at interest it was no sin if they did so once they came. As a result of the anti-Jewish preaching of *Bernardino da Feltre a *Monte di Pietà was founded in 1489 and the Jewish bankers were fined heavily. Since they did not pay, they were expelled. Around the middle of the 16th century a few Jews returned but after 1572 they were not allowed to stay for more than 15 days at a time. This restriction was set aside in individual cases from 1738. Since then, however, no more than a handful of Jews have lived in Lucca.
Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index; Milano, Bibliotheca, s.v.; U. Cassuto, Ebrei a Firenze nell' età del Rinascimento (1918), index, s.v.David di Dattilo da Tivoli and Lucca; Roth, Dark Ages, index.