Visita Virtuale

Eight centuries of history

The Palazzo Ducale has been the political and administrative centre of the city of Lucca for eight centuries. According to history, in 1322 Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli, Lord of Lucca, instructed Giotto to design a fortress, called the Augusta, that would occupy about a fifth of the total area of the city at that time. The building became Castruccio’s dwelling place and seat of government. On his death in 1328, the city lost its independence and seven consecutive foreign rulers succeeded each other in the Augusta. In 1369, when they had reacquired their liberty through Emperor Charles IV, the Lucchesi decided to pull down the walls of the fortress that had become a symbol of foreign oppression. The Palazzo itself was saved and became the seat of the Government of the Elders of the Republic of Lucca. During the Seignory of Paolo Guinigi, the Palazzo was substantially altered and annexes and extensions were added to the building in the following decades. In 1577, an explosion in the Powder Magazine in the Torre Vecchia meant that new works were required and the design of these was assigned to the architect Bartolomeo Ammannati. The sixteenth-century layout of whole parts of the palazzo is still recognisable today and the loggia on the east side of the Cortile degli Svizzeri is named after the great Florentine architect. In 1726, the council invited Filippo Juvarra – a noted architect from Turin – to complete the north part and the courtyards of the Palazzo. Juvarra’s plans were not fully implemented until the following century when the authority and prestige of Elisa Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon and Princess of Lucca and Piombino from 1805 to 1814 led to the creation of the Throne Quarter and the opening of the large square in front of the building – now Piazza Napoleone – according to the plans drawn up by architects Giovanni Lazzarini and Theodore Bienaimè. Maria Luisa Borbone, who was chosen to govern the city on the decision of the Congress of Vienna, completed the works that transformed the palazzo into a modern palace. For this purpose, the architect of the Royal House, Lorenzo Nottolini, developed a homogeneous programme of internal and external organisation. Nottolini’s work came to an end in 1834 with the building of the Palazzina on the west side of the Cortile Carrara to the west, where government offices and general services were situated. In 1847 Lucca and its Palazzo were sold to the Grand Dukedom of the Lorraines in Tuscany and numerous art works and a large part of the furnishings were transferred to the Pitti Palace. Between 1860 and 1865, the Palazzo belonged to the Royal House of Savoy and in July 1867, the Provincial Government bought it for 300,000 lire. The need to find a place for the Provincial Government’s offices – the Prefecture already occupied part of the first and the second floor – and later internal alterations made to accommodate the Court of Appeal and the Public Prosecutor, substantially transformed the architectural unity of the Palazzo.