The Guinigi family claims remote feudal origins: their
name appeared at first in documents of the 11th century when their
economic power was consolidated by their fruitful mercantile and
Their name, more than any other family, was bound forever to the
history of Lucca because of the important role played by them
between the end of the 14th century and the first decades of the
15th centuries: first came Francesco di Lazzaro, who was named
"father of the county", as he gave to the new-born Republic its
democratic institution and formulation; then came Paolo who ruled
from 1400 to 1430 as an absolute monarch.
His dominion coincided with a period of great artistic production
and general growth in taste and fashion which reached the high
standard of the most refined Italian and French courts.
The wonderful Cross cast in silver and gold, called "Dei Pisani",
a masterpiece of the goldsmith Vincenzo di Michele from Piacenza
which is kept in the Museum of the "Opera del Duomo", and the
suburban Villa Guinigi, (presently the Museo Nazionale di Villa
Guinigi), are examples of the high artistic level of the period.
The building, that well represents the magnificence Paolo Guinigi
wanted to impress on his ruling style, was undertaken in 1412;
more than hundred men worked at it everyday and yet in 1420 it
wasn't completed: in this year it had to host the great feast
for the celebration of the fourth wedding of the Guinigi.
But the work of art which best represents the refined atmosphere
of the "signoria" is the famous monument to the second wife of
Guinigi, Ilaria del Carretto, a masterpiece of the sculptor
Jacopo della Quercia.
It is one of the most beautiful achievements of the 15th century
From the beginning it was placed in the Cathedral, near the family
altar, in the south transept.
The figure of the young woman, who died at the age of 26, recalls,
for the quality of the relief and the intensity of the posture,
other examples in France, instead in the epic series of "putti"
on the basement, the artist must have had in mind the Roman sarcophagus
from the "Adrian" period and other artistic manufacts of the Attic
||"Ilaria Del Carreto"
di Jacopo Della Quercia
The remains of Ilaria were never placed here, but were engraved
in the family cappella in St. Francesco. The monument was completed
when Guinigi had married again.
His devotion to her memory came from his gratitude for the son
she gave him, the future heir of the signoria.
Along the street that takes the name from the family there are
two other interesting Guinigi palaces of the 14th century.
The first is the one crowned by the celebrated tower with the
ilex trees, an obligatory stop for all visitors: it is a large
house built in 1376 by the brothers Dino, Lazzaro and Jacopo Guinigi,
the other one was built by the brothers Francesco, Nicolao and
Michele both represent two magnificent examples of civil architecture
in Tuscany in the late gothic period.
The buildings are imposing and delicate in the same time because
of the airy "trifore" (window with three arches) and the "tetrafore"
supported by gracious slim columns.
The external ornamentation has, also, the function to soften the
severity of the whole: metal rings in chiselled brickwork, capitals
decorated with vegetable motives or with the human figure, spikes
for horse in iron cast.