Unknown artist, Il Volto Santo di Lucca e il miracolo del giullare, 15th cent., Tempera on table, coming from the Chapel of the Saviour in the Cathedral
The large painting on table portraying the Holy Face from Lucca, still included in the wonderful altar dossal in gilded wood datable to the second half of the 16th century, was once placed in the Chapel of the Saviour in the Cathedral, formerly Riccardi’s family chapel than ended up in the Canons’ possessions
The Riccardi family , Angevins supporters, lived in Ortona between the end of 14th century and the first decades of 16th century and were very influential in the kingdom of Naples during the 15th cent., especially with Francesco I, Chamberlain, Seneschal, Castellan in Naples, Ambassador in Konstanz for the papal election of Martin V, Viceroy and Governor of Perugia from the 1408 to 1414, died in 1424. They had many feuds, in Abruzzo and outside , and they got related with remarkable and noble families.
The Holy Face of Lucca, object of a widespread worship in all Europe starting from the Middle Age, is a wooden crucifix kept in the left aisle of S. Martino Cathedral in Lucca, in a little central plan temple built by Matteo Civitali in 1484. According to the old legend handed down by the deacon Leobino, the Holy Face crucifix was entirely carved by Nicodemus, after Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, apart from the Face that was completed only thanks to divine intervention thus proving to be Christ’s “real face”. The painting shows one of the most famous miracles of the Holy Face that let his golden sandal slip into the hands of a jester in order to demonstrate his appreciation to the man that had sung for him in sign of devotion.
The worship for the Holy Face can be put in relation both with Riccardis’ origin from Lucca, and with the acknowledged power of the Simulacrum of keeping invaders and pirates away.