The largest religious festival in the city of Lucca and, indeed, the entire Archdiocese begins in the late afternoon on 13 September with the chanting of First Vespers in the Cathedral, the centre of the celebrations. The fulcrum of the festival is the relic of the Volto Santo (Holy Face), which, covered by drapes, is venerated for two days by believers and pilgrims who enter the Tempietto, designed by Matteo Civitali, where the crucifix is kept. At the end of First Vespers, the clergy and congregation transfer to the Basilica of San Frediano, the starting point of a procession which begins at 8pm. This procession, which enjoys the spectacular sight of a historic centre illuminated by thousands of candles, retraces the miraculous journey once made by the crucifix, from San Frediano to the Cathedral, going down Via Fillungo, Via Roma, Piazza San Michele, Via Vittorio Veneto, Piazza Napoleone, Piazza del Giglio, Piazza San Giovanni and Piazza San Martino. All the clergy of Lucca take part in this procession, all the parishes of the Archdiocese, each with their own insignia; representatives of all the municipalities in the Province of Lucca, of the Lucchesi nel Mondo association, of religious and secular Volontariato groups and an acting troupe who finish the procession with costumed re-enactments. Central to the festive day is the Pontifical High Mass, which is celebrated in the Cathedral at 10:30, during which tow is burned to the chant of the Gloria. The festival of the Santa Croce, as is confirmed by people of Lucca, is at the centre of Lucchese identity: it marks the beginning of Settembre Lucchese, a rich calendar of recreational and cultural events springing from the proximate celebrations of Santa Croce, San Matteo, San Michele and from their related festivals.
Sources: Belli Barsali I., Guida di Lucca, Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, Lucca, 1970; comune.lucca.it