> Lucca > Ilaria del Caretto - Treasure of Lucca
treasure of Lucca
our newsletters we never stopped in Lucca. Actually, this city
would be worth a series of newsletters only for its millenarian
history, for its extraordinary treasures of art and architecture,
for its delightful aristocratic gardens.
That's why I apologize with those who visited Lucca and loved
it more than any other Tuscan city. We must say that Lucca could
be even thought not too much as a Tuscan city, because...Lucca
is Lucca, just Lucca. We discover this city at the feet of three
mountains, which protect it like a jewel-case: the Mount Pisano,
the Apuanian Alps, and the Mount Barbona, well 4,000 meters
of white marble and Verrucano stone.
Despite the protection given by these mountains to its proud
independence from the rest of Tuscany, yet Lucca in XVI century
was provided with an imposing circle of powerful and impregnable
walls. In this way, its "hundred churches" and its elegant palaces
could remain safe for many centuries, even to the point that
the Grand duchy of Tuscany, the big state engine ruled by Florence,
was never able to include Lucca amongst its cities.
I often liked thinking that such a strong protection and isolation
could conceal a treasure, perhaps a treasure hidden somewhere
in the city and jealously kept by its all inhabitants. Of course,
Lucca, as I already said, has quite a lot of treasures, but
I really didn't think of one so much precious as to put a shadow
over the others.
Until, some years ago, I entered the Cathedral third and latest
jewel-case engineered by the inhabitants of Lucca. Only there,
in fact, I could realize, among other people and among other
future people who will visit it, as follows: the treasure has
a name, a time, two clasped hands, with long thin fingers, a
serene face, a smooth and clear skin under the pale moon rays;
the treasure has a bright mantle and a couch provided with silk
cushions and velvet clothes. The treasure has half-open eyes
and a choir of angels all around her to cheer her sleep.
When Ilaria del Carretto, the daughter of the Marquesses of
Savona, reached Lucca, in 1403, coming from the close Liguria,
she was 17 and she went married to Paolo Guinigi, lord of the
Tuscan town. Their marriage was then followed by the birth of
their first-born Ladislao, but only two years later, on 8th
December 1405, Ilaria died at her second delivery. Paolo believed
that the young beauty of Ilaria would deserve the same honor
reserved to a queen or to a saint; therefore he decided to transfigure
her beauty in a sculpture, engaging Jacopo della Quercia - a
sculptor whose art was keen on fine and gentle expressions as
well capable of a classical and still solemn attitude towards
his works- and thereby sublimating his love for her in the grace
of the marble.
This time we are not allowed to talk about style, art and shape.
Icy considerations far from emotion and from the sweet shudder
that Ilaria still can give us, from her half-open eyes and her
just joined lips. Someone said that Ilaria, in the way we can
now admire her, "did not ascend to the sky, rather she descended
from the sky".
If you ever have the chance to visit her grave, you will notice
that the small sacristy of the Cathedral of Lucca, where she
rests on her smooth marble couch, is the most precious place
of a city which is able to maintain its secrets.