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Volto Santo di Lucca (Holy Face of Lucca)By Anthony Parente
One popular legend states this was sculpted by Nicodemus, a disciple of Jesus, who assisted St. Joseph of Arimathea placing Christ in the tomb after his crucifixion. During the sculpting of the crucifix, Nicodemus stopped when he got to the delineation of the face. He feared that he could not portray it faithfully. As he slept, he dreamt that the face was delicately sculpted. When he woke from his sleep it was miraculously completed. After his death the Holy Face was hidden in a cave where it remained for centuries. It was discovered by Bishop Gualfredo, who dreamt of its location while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Bishop sought divine intervention as he placed the relic in an unmanned boat out to sea. The boat arrived at a harbor in Luni (currently Tuscany). As the people of Luni attempted to board the boat winds would push it further out to sea. It was the Bishop of Lucca, who also had a dream that revealed how to board the vessel. The Bishop recovered the sculpture and place the wooden cross in a cart pulled by oxen. Like Bishop Gualfredo, he let divine guidance take the relic to its new home. It arrived at the town of Lucca and with great jubilation the people took the relic and placed it in the Basilica of San Frediano. When the townspeople returned the next day, the relic was missing only to be found on the current spot of the Cattedrale di San Martino where it remains today.
On the evening of September 13th all the lights are turned off in town as doors, archways and buildings are adorned with candles lighting the procession route for the Volto Santo. Starting at the Basilica of San Frediano a giant banner portraying the Volto Santo it carried as the procession makes its way through the town. The candlelight parade includes all factions from the town as well as bands and tourists from all over the world. The procession concludes at the Cattedrale di San Martino. The evening is capped with a beautiful firework display.
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