Famous throughout the world, the monumental Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo of Pisa (in Tuscany) makes up one of the entries on the list of 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy (inserted in 1987). An ancient center of civic life, the Duomo and complex comprise a highly-regarded touristic destination, due to its architectonic harmony: famous Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio went so far as to call Pisa’s architectural gems “miracles."The Piazza dei Miracoli or Piazza of Miracles, as it was nicknamed, set over an ample green field, hosts four whiter-than-white masterpieces of grandiose Medieval art: the renowned Leaning Tower (also the Bell Tower), the Camposanto (the graveyard), the Baptristy and the Cathedral itself. These last two are so unique that their creation gave origin to a new style, “Pisan Romanesque.”
Located in the extreme northwestern part of the city, the Cathedral complex historically sat near a river port, at the banks of the (now-vanished) Auser River. This area was chosen to construct the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta exactly for its centrality; founded in 1064, it was intended to celebrate the grandeur of Pisa during the Marine Republic’s epoch of power.
“The temple of marble white as the snow” is how the structure is described on the gravestone of its architect, Buscheto di Giovanni Giudice. Consisting of five naves with its transept divided into three naves, it is surmounted by a splendid dome encircled by a loggia. The Duomo’s façade and exterior lateral sections feature elaborate decoration in marble (which can also be seen on its interior), mosaics, and bronze. Arab influences are highly evident in some of the panelling, as well as in the organization of the internal spaces according to multiple optic lines, similar to that seen in mosques.
In front of the Cathedral stands the Baptistry, also in a particular version of the Romanesque style. Initiated in 1152 by Diotisalvi, the Baptistry was finally completed in the 14th Century; at that point, Gothic elements were also added. Of cylindrical form and circled by arcades of columns, this structure in white marble even boasts amazing acoustics. Its internal organization is rather sober, and revolves around a central baptismal font. The roof of the Baptistry is double-domed, which contributes even further to the complex visible harmonies of this monument.
The Camposanto closes the northern end of the piazza in which the complex lies. This monumental cemetery, begun in 1278, is bordered by a fence of marble and houses a cloister at its center. The majority of the frescoes that once colored its walls were, unfortunately, destroyed in a fire in 1944. An atmosphere that inspires reflection and prayer, the Camposanto was constructed with the intention of preserving“holy land” from Palestine.
Ultimately, the real symbol of Pisa is the Campanile, that is the Leaning Tower, that completes the image of this city. Because of land sinkage beneath it, the Tower stands at a significant incline – this sinkage impeded its very construction to a great extent. It was started in 1173, taken up again in 1275, and not completed until the second half of the 1300s. In cylindrical form, its lower part is done in blind arcades that then mutate into six floors of loggias, repeating motifs from the Duomo. Inside, a spiral staircase of 294 steps leads to the heights of one of the most famous towers in the world, where the lovely belfry and a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape await.
Opera della Primaziale of Pisa - managing organization for the Cathedral complex
Official Website for the Commune of Pisa
Official Website for Tourism in Tuscany
Official Website for the Province of Pisa
How to Get There
By Bus: LAM Rossa line, Direction 1 (San Jacopo); Navetta Torre from Park Pietrasantina to Largo Cocco Griffi; Line 4; Line 21 (nocturnal)
In Train: Central Station is just an 8-minute walk from Corso Italia.
By Plane: Aeroporto Internazionale Galileo Galilei in Pisa is a modern and fully-functioning airport.