The church of Santi Giovanni e Reparata, with its adjacent Baptistery, was built in the 4th century as the cathedral of Lucca, maintaining that role until the 8th century. It was renovated various times, and today’s appearance is Romanesque in style, including the portal on the façade, though this bears many decorations from the 1600s.
Inside, the three naves are divided by columns with composite capitals, many of which were recycled from the Roman era. The bell tower, built mostly in brick and stone, stands above the crossing of the transept and central nave.
While the Baptistery was built at theend of the 1300s, boasting an ogee arch, the most important renovation to the building was in the 16th century: the medieval side doors were replaced with modern lighting, the façade was raised and a coffered ceiling was erected.
The Baroque chapel dedicated to St. Ignatius dates to the late-1600s, found on the northern side of the building. Between 1840 and 1870, the church was turned into a mausoleum of local “glories,” housing tombs of famous figures and commemorative gravestones.
The building was opened as a museum to allow visitors to explore the historic layers of the building, with ruins of the various churches that range from the 1st century BCE to the 12th century CE, brought to light during an excavation that began in 1969. It’s also worth seeing the ruins of a Roman domus from the 1st century CE, thermal baths from the 1st-2nd century CE, the Early Christian church and baptistery, tombs from the Lombard era, a baptistery from the Early Middle Ages, a Carolingian crypt and the baptismal font decorated with intarsias in coloured marble.