Piazza San Martino is located in the centre of Lucca and is often used to cultural events, like the antiques market held on the third Saturday and Sunday of the month. It takes its name from the cathedral, dedicated to San Martino – St. Martin of Tours – and vaunts an asymmetrical façade that dominates the entire piazza. According to tradition, the church was founded in the 6th century by Saint Fridianus, rebuilt by Anselmo da Baggio in 1060 and renovated in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The façade has a typical Lucchese Romanesque style and was built in 1204 by Guidetto da Como. The most evident characteristic of this style is that the three large arches, supported by imposing pillars, have varying widths. Other features of the cathedral include a mysterious labyrinth sculpted into the pillar supporting the narrowest arch, alongside which is an allegorical quote that refers to the way out of the darkness.
The interior of the cathedral conserves priceless works of art, including the funerary monument of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia made in 1408, a Madonna and Child with Saints by Domenico Ghirlandaio, a Last Supper by Jacopo Tintoretto and the venerated “Holy Visage” of Lucca.
Opposite the cathedral is Palazzo Bernardi, built in the mid-15th century using a project by Bartolomeo Ammannati.