The area now known as Lucena City first appeared in records under the name Tayabas when it was founded by Franciscan priests Juan de Plasencia and Diego de Oropesa between 1580 and 1583. Incidentally, Tayabas was also the name given to its encompassing province now known as Quezon. Today, the name Tayabas is carried by the city next to Lucena.
By the 16th century, the Spaniards changed the town’s name to Buenavista in tribute to its scenery. This was later changed to Oroquieta, and then to Cotta in allusion to the fact that the town was transformed into a fort (kuta) to defend against Moro pirates. Today, the name Cotta is reserved to one of Lucena’s 33 barangays.
It was in 1879 when the town’s name was officially changed to Lucena in honor of a Spanish friar, Rev. Fr. Mariano Granja. In 1882, Lucena became an independent municipality, that is, politically separate from the rest of Quezon Province.
On June 17, 1961, through the efforts of the late Congressman Manuel S. Enverga and Congressman Pascual Espinosa, Lucena became a Chartered City by virtue of Republic Act No. 3271. August 20, 1961 marked its inauguration.
Three decades later, on July 1, 1991, Lucena became a Highly Urbanized City based on Batas Pambansa Bilang 337 (Local Government Code of 1983).