Lucca: the Lombard capital in the scrolls of the Diocesan Historical Archives

The city’s Diocesan Historical Archives house the fundamental documents of the history of Lombard Lucca. In this treasure chest of the past, the history of the most important European reigns is entwined through the documents that tell of historical, religious, artistic and cultural events from the beginning of civilization to our modern days. A trip back to the Middle Ages, to its history and legends.

Franca Severini

“…We do not know precisely in what year Lucca became Lombard, but it was probably in the year 574,… at the time of Cunipert, the Basilica of St. Frediano was commenced and finished, built largely with the material recovered from the old amphitheater. Astolfo and Desiderio were not just Dukes of Lucca, but since they resided there, they extended their dominion to all of Tuscany…” Torello Del Carlo, “Storia Popolare di Lucca” (A Popular History of Lucca)


THE CITY OF LUCCA, A PLACE WITH THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY, IN THE VI CENTURY BECAME THE CAPITAL OF THE LOMBARD DUCHY OF TUSCIA. Its history, very ancient and important under many aspects, is a wealth of documented information of extraordinary significance, preserved in the city’s Archives. And much of the documentation is still to be studied. Among the places where the memory of time is preserved, the Archiepiscopal Archives of Lucca is one of the most important in the world. It is a place of extraordinary value for the quantity and antiquity of the documents stored there, such as the history of the Reign of the Lombards, here housed and studied, with a central collection of documents unique for quality and quantity with respect to other Italian or international collections. And so scholars of the Lombard epic must enter the dark halls of the Archiepiscopal Archives of Lucca and let themselves be guided by these scrolls towards the discovery of events that – big or small though they may be – have made modern history. This nucleus of enormously important documents is represented by the scrolls belonging to the Lombard epoch (685-774); alone they constitute over half of the Lombard documents preserved in the many Italian Archives. They are public deeds issued directly by the chancellery of the Lombard kings, and public and private deeds produced during the reigns of Cunipert, Aripert, Liutprand, Ratchis, Astolfo and Desiderio. A priceless heritage that stores the complete memory of the Lombard events, extremely important for the evolution of modern civilization, given the bonds that existed between this reign and the others that were in power at the time. A very unique case among Italian and non-Italian ecclesiastical and civil archives.


THE ARCHIEPISCOPAL ARCHIVES OF LUCCA HAVE ALWAYS BEEN LOCATED IN THE PALAZZO DEL VESCOVO (THE BISHOP’S PALACE), at least since the XIII century, the time in which the first written attestations of the existence of the Archives first appear on the scrolls. This physical continuity of their location together with the persistence throughout the years of the ecclesiastic authority, has allowed the documents to reach our day in an almost integral form, with no relevant losses reported. Besides this important collection of Lombard documents, in the austere and elegant halls, appropriate for consulting such important material, precious accounts of church life in Lucca are also stored, starting with the VII century AD up to our modern day. Eye-witness accounts that are enlightening for the history of the city and the territory of Lucca, but also for the whole of Europe. So much so that among scholars the world over, the Archives of Lucca are renowned as “the treasure chest from the past”. Very well preserved treasures in the form of documents and books, so vast and ancient that it still has not been fully explored.


THIS ARCHIVE IS COMPRISED OF FIVE COLLECTIONS OF SCROLLS: the “Diplomatico Arcivescovile”, the “Diplomatico del Capitolo”, the “Diplomatico dei Beneficiati di S. Martino”, the “Diplomatico del Decanato di San Michele”, the “Collezione Martini”, where about 13,000 scrolls are preserved, dating back to the year 685. Among these, 1800 documents are dated before the year 1000, and almost all of them are original. A collection that has benefited from the generosity of many private and public institutions in implementing a preservation project that would allow the diffusion of this information – a project that has enjoyed international resonance. In particular, the Associazione degli Industriali di Lucca e Provincia (the Industralists’ Association of Lucca and its Province) in 2007 financed the pilot project connected to the “Collezione Martini”. It was an experiment that concerned a small number of scrolls, representing a minimal portion of those found in the Archives. The aim was to verify their authenticity through certain procedures, in the hopes of being able to extend them to all of the documents stored there. The work began in the Spring of 2007 on the 466 scrolls belonging to the “Collezione Martini”, divided between imperial and royal diplomas, some coming from the Lombard and Carolingian chancelleries, Papal documents, private deeds written between 726 and 1793, fruit of the long and productive activity of a collector and seller of ancient books from Lucca called Giuseppe Martini, who was born in the town of Borgo a Mozzano in 1870 and died in Lugano in 1944. The project concluded with the creation of the Archives’ website containing information about the Archiepiscopal Archives of Lucca and in particular the “Collezione Martini”. It will hence be possible, for all those interested, to consult the descriptive files of the documents contained in the collection, research text within the contents of the data bank, read the documents directly from the digital image of the scroll. This solution allows access to the information and to related images of the Collection from the two computers set up in the studio hall, through the intranet and with the consultancy of the highly qualified personnel available.


THE INDUSTRIALISTS’ ASSOCIATION deserves great credit for having understood the value and the importance of this project aimed at enhancing a precious source of history, for having had the farsightedness of those who, through the protection, preservation and diffusion of archival documents – memory of the past – envision the possibility of conveying their identity and interpreting and living the future with greater awareness. There is still a long way to go in bringing to light the allure of past centuries, and with this aim, the Archdiocese of Lucca continues in its quest for synergies in order to proceed together on the road to diffusing all that which has preceded us. •

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