The New Project
The Palazzo of the Elders at the beginning of the sixteenth century was very picturesque. It did not have a single architectural style but was a group of buildings of different periods and with different functions connected by passages and bridges. A new wing to the north, along the present façade, was added to the group surrounding the courtyard. At the north end of this was the Republic’s new customs building, the Gabbella Maggiore, rebuilt by 1517, with the General Council Chamber. Attached to it, to the south, was a building with a garden (now the Cortile Carrara) part of which was used to store salt and part as the Tax Office. Two bridges connected this with the old Palazzo of the Elders and the tower. In the same period, the west wing along the Cortile degli Svizzeri beside the old Palazzo was rebuilt from its foundations with the ground floor to be the armoury, the intermediate floor the documents office, and the first floor to be the Elders’ accommodation with a new chapel and a bridge to the Church of San Romano. The complex was so densely occupied by public offices that it was not considered a suitable place for Charles V in 1536 and he was accommodated in the Bishop’s Palace. During the night of the 28th and 29th of August 1576, lightning struck the little tower on the left side of the courtyard gate causing the gunpowder stored there to explode. The old Palazzo was completely destroyed, the adjoining buildings were badly damaged and a number of people were killed or injured. On the 11th of September 1577, Bartolomeo Ammannati was commissioned to draw up new plans for the Palazzo and these were approved a month later. Ammannati proposed building a large palazzo with a tower, set out round three courtyards of which the central one was to be the Cortile degli Svizzeri. The works continued from 1571 to 1586 and cost more than 45,000 scudos. By the end of the century, the new guards’ loggia, the open galleries in the Cortile degli Svizzeri, and the left half of the façade up to the central gate had been completed. In October 1593 a fire seriously damaged the top floor of the new building where, amongst other rooms, the prison was situated.
The City State
In the space of a very few years, Lucca was obliged to abandon its pro-French policy against Florence which had been adopted because of the presence of Charles VIII and Louis XII of France on Italian soil. Lucca was an imperial city, its merchants did lucrative trade in Lyon and it was necessary to maintain a degree of neutrality in the clash between the Empire and the Kingdom of France. In 1509 the city had to stop supporting the cause of independence for Pisa. In 1513, with Pope Leo X (Giovanni de’ Medici) as arbitrator, the territorial disputes were resolved in favour of Florence and Ferrara. Pietrasanta and Motrone were judged to belong lawfully to Florence and the Garfagnana to Ferrara. It was in this context of having its territory reduced to these narrowest of boundaries that Lucca took the onerous decision to reinforce and then completely rebuild the defence walls according to the most up-to-date techniques for defence against firearms. In 1513 the villages around the walls were razed to the ground in order to create the tagliata, an empty space about 500 metres wide, which would provide a more effective defence in the case of a siege.
Conspiracies and Revolts
Lucca and the Reformation
During the sixteenth century, the Reformation put down deep roots in Lucca. The merchants who lived in cities in the north of Europe were the means by which reforming ideas, proscribed books and the desire to improve the morality of the clergy spread here. In every family there was someone who supported or sympathised with the Protestants. These “heretics” were tolerated and their numbers minimised by the Lucchesi who knew the dangers that their Republic was exposed to. Repeated threats from Rome and the fear of a “crusade” from Florence against the heretical Lucca sent the Protestants into voluntary exile in Geneva and other cities to the north. The Republic was jealous of its own integrity and its sovereignty in its dealings with the Church and therefore did not accept any interference from outsiders in this matter. There were no trials or confiscation for the Protestant exiles, no Inquisition court was set up and no Jesuits were allowed to establish themselves in the city. This exodus, however, impoverished Lucca in terms of money and human and cultural resources. From 1556, withGonfaloniere Martino Bernardini’s reforms, public office was open only to members of the oldest families. Lucca became an oligarchic republic