Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 13, 2012

Lucca lights up for Santa Croce

On the evening of 13th September the streets of Lucca are lined with candles for the Luminaria di Santa Croce. The origins of the festival have been lost, but it has an ancient feeling as the crowds gather in the beautiful cobblestone streets.

As night falls the citizens of Lucca form a procession through the streets from San Frediano church, wearing medieval costume, carrying religious articles and singing hymns, to the Lucca Cathedral to pray to “il Volto Santo”, a wooden sculpture of Christ.

According to legend, the sculptor was Nicodemus, a deciple of Jesus. It was lost some time in the 8th century, but found and carried back to the town in 742.


The crowds gather as night falls.


Thousands of candles light the way for the procession.


The church of San Michele lit by candles.










It was a perfect cool, clear evening this year for the procession. Lucca looked even more beautiful than usual with its candle lined streets and thousands of enthusiastic people watching on.


  1. The celebrations and ceremonies are so much a part of Italian life – thanks for sharing them with us, Deb!

    • It is one of the things I love about being here. It is great so see so many people out taking part in the evening.

  2. I love these kinds of events! The candle photo is wonderful.

    • I took lots of photos,but most didn’t turn out….there were heads in the way, a man in a reflective orange coat managed to appear in several and lots were just too fuzzy.

  3. oh Deb -San Michele is amazing-I love Lucca, thanks for sharing-I have read about this so many times…beautiful.

    • I am not usually here at this time of year, so it was great to finally make it to the celebration.

  4. You did very well with your night shots – even portraits! It looks wonderful and so does the city – I especially liked the dramatic lighting on the church of San Michele – just spectacular 🙂

    • The street the procession took were all lined with candles. It looked wonderful.

  5. Beautiful night shots, Debra. I can only imagine what the festivities look like during Easter season!

    • Easter is surprisingly low key here. This procession lasted for hours.

      • Interesting; I remember long Easter processions while growing up in Panama. Signs of the times I guess.

      • This procession must have lasted for hours.

  6. Superb Debra! You captured the solemn feel of the evening though I imagine it was fun as well. Nothing would beat being there though…. San Michele looks a dream.

    • It was fun to watch the celebration. All of Lucca was there I think.

  7. Enjoyed your new post. I can imagine all italians out on the streets in the evening to gather for such an event. Italian night life is just so wonderful they are out with the entire family, children, grandmas and grandpa’s, all of it, eating icecream, having a little wine in a little bar, talking, laughing, so full of life. You captured it all so well, thank you for sharing

    • Your description is perfect….that is exactly what it was like.

  8. Debra, thanks for showing us “Life” in Lucca – I just love this kind of traditional happening. We spent Easter in Florence this year and a similar thing happened there – only we had such heavy rain that not many photos came out – so dont be upset -hopefully there will be next year.

    • I sometimes think I post too many photos, so perhaps it is not a bad thing that most didn’t turn out.

  9. It is a beautiful ceremony, very well depicted through your photos. Thank you, Debra.

    • I was very glad to have been here at the right time this year.

  10. What a beautiful, atmospheric evening Debra!!

    • Italians do these ceremonies very well…..lots of practice.

  11. What a lovely celebration, Debra. I so enjoyed your photos. 🙂

    • Thank you for commenting…I love taking the photos.

  12. Beautiful pictures of beautiful Lucca. Lucca really is a gem.

  13. Magical stuff! I love Cornelia’s description – I so want that lifestyle – next lifetime perhaps.

    • It is not too late for this one.

  14. […] Fuente Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. […]

  15. Beautiful photos … thanks for sharing the wonderful tradition. PS: A reminder about the weekend party. 🙂

    • I love being able to be a part of these amazing traditions.

  16. What lovely images–makes me feel like I was a part of the ceremony!!

    • It was a beautiful night.

  17. Your photos capture the spirit of the celebrations! Thanks Debra.

    • It is my pleasure…thank you for stopping by.

  18. Debra, there is a fabulous little book you can buy in Lucca at the book store, entitled “Tales Told In Lucca” by Bartolomeo Di Monaco. It has the story of the Volto Santo, and so many others, that I know you would find the book fascinating. I love to immerse myself in it – and read only one story at a time! Hope you can find it. Now, we have to figure out a way to be there in Sept as well…thanks a lot! LOL!

    • I have that book! I will find the story…..thank you.

  19. […] […]

  20. […] some unbeatable photos of the procession, read this post on Debra Kolkka’s blog Bagni di Lucca and […]

  21. Dear Debra,
    so envious not to be there for the Festival. Loved ALL the photos and I searched every one of them for something I would recognise – except of course, San Michelle, which is instantly recognisable.
    Enjoy your time again and I look forward to more photos of your journey.

    • I was at the festival last year, 2012. It was great fun.

      • Hi again,

        Yes, I noticed the date only after I’d sent my email when I forwarded it on to Karen. Next year we want to be there for the Summer festival so maybe the year after we could do the Luminaria. We are both learning Italian (or trying to) in preparation! Do you go back in October?

      • I will be back in Bagni di Lucca in early October for several months.

  22. […] the streets of the city are lit only by candles and all residents who are able participate in the Luminaria di Santa Croce, forming a candle-carrying procession through the streets, wearing medieval costume, carrying […]

  23. Amazing!! What an experience you had 🙂

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