The first documents on this Villa are quite late and date back to 1593, when Alessandro Buonvisi, in his will, while leaving his son Lodovico heir to all his possessions, expressed the desire that his wife Angela, if he had not found the accommodation together satisfactory to his son, could go and live in the Villa of S. Pancrazio; the other consists of a detailed Terrilogio dating back to the eighteenth century, which shows the plan of the garden and the design of the building.
From the aesthetic characteristics it is believed that the project for the construction of the Villa was commissioned by the Buonvisi, between the end of the 1400s and the beginning of the 1500s, to Matteo Civitali. Civitali (1436-1501), a distinguished sculptor, carver, architect, worked in Lucca and in other Tuscan cities. Culturally trained at the Florence school of Lorenzo dei Medici, he transferred the taste of the Renaissance into his works, that is, the search for harmony through the study of proportions and perspective. Among his most notable works of architecture, the Palazzo Pretorio remains in Lucca. The characteristic of this building is constituted by a beautiful and harmonious Loggia and this element is also present in the upstream facade of the Villa Buonvisi in S. Pancrazio.
The building itself is very linear: the rectangular plan is punctuated, on the south facade, by three rows of windows, perpendicularly aligned with each other. In the center, the large entrance portal is surmounted by a small stone balcony, enriched with columns and a tympanum interrupted by the Buonvisi coat of arms.
On the north facade, the harmonious portico consists of five arches and four linear and imposing stone columns that rise to include two floors. Outside, the portico is bordered by four series of low columns, also in stone; inside we find symmetrical windows that surround the entrance portal, surmounted, as in the south facade, by a small balcony.
This building is inspired by orderly and elaborate balances, highlighted by “full” and “empty”, which denote the conscious search for an all-Renaissance beauty marked by the harmony of forms.
The Villa was the favorite seat of two Cardinals, Girolamo and Francesco who, when they were in Lucca, chose it as their home. In 1661 Cardinal Girolamo hosted a Sacred Synod, which was attended by Pope Alexander VII himself; and another Synod was called there by Cardinal Francesco in 1700, a few months before his death.
The Buonvisi stable, linked to a singular legend, is also of great artistic value; the bet of Buonvisi with the king of France Louis XIV. Buonvisi claimed that the stables of San Pancrazio were more beautiful than any room in the palace of Versailles. Intrigued, the king sent one of his ambassadors to verify the veracity of Buonvisi’s words. The messenger arrived on the spot found the walls of the stable entirely covered with gold coins bearing the effigy of the Sun King. The ambassador, faced with so much splendor and the image of his king, could only recognize that Buonvisi had won the bet.