Drove to Pisa – maybe 35 mins on the toll road. Parked easily and just made it to the Duomo before it closed for a concert. They are doing a lot of work on it both inside and outside. Still very impressive, will be interesting to compare with Sienna.
The heart of the Piazza del Duomo is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral of the Archdiocese of Pisa, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption). The cathedral has two aisles on either side of the nave. The transept consists of three aisles. The church is known also as the Primatial, the archbishop of Pisa being a Primate since 1092.
Its construction began in 1064 by the architect Buscheto. It set the model for the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. The mosaics of the interior, as well as the pointed arches, show a strong Byzantine influence.
The façade, of grey marble and white stone set with discs of coloured marble, was built by a master named Rainaldo, as indicated by an inscription above the middle door: Rainaldus prudens operator.
The massive bronze main doors were made in the workshops of Giambologna, replacing the original doors destroyed in a fire in 1595. The original central door was of bronze, made around 1180 by Bonanno Pisano, while the other two were probably of wood. However, worshippers have never used the façade doors to enter, instead entering by way of the Porta di San Ranieri (St. Ranieri’s Door), in front of the Leaning Tower, built around 1180 by Bonanno Pisano.
We also visited the Baptistry: The Baptistery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, stands opposite the west end of the Duomo. The round Romanesque building was begun in the mid 12th century: 1153 Mense August fundata fuit haec (“In the month of August 1153 was set up here…”). It was built in Romanesque style by an architect known as Diotisalvi (“God Save You”), who worked also in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in the city. His name is mentioned on a pillar inside, as Diotosalvi magister. the construction was not, however, finished until the 14th century, when the loggia, the top storey and the dome were added in Gothic style by Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano.
It is the largest baptistery in Italy, with a circumference measuring 107.25 m. Taking into account the statue of St. John the Baptist (attributed to Turino di Sano) atop the dome, it is even a few centimetres taller than the Leaning Tower.
The portal, facing the façade of the cathedral, is flanked by two classical columns, while the inner jambs are executed in the Byzantine style. The lintel is divided into two tiers, the lower one depicting several episodes in the life of St. John the Baptist, and the upper one showing Christ between the Madonna and St. John the Baptist, flanked by angels and the evangelists.
The immensity of the interior is overwhelming, but it is surprisingly plain and lacking in decoration. It has notable acoustics also.
The octagonal baptismal font at the centre dates from 1246 and was made by Guido Bigarelli da Como. The bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist at the centre of the font is a remarkable work by Italo Griselli.
The pulpit was sculpted between 1255-1260 by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni Pisano, the artist who produced the pulpit in the Duomo. The scenes on the pulpit, and especially the classical form of the naked Hercules, show at best Nicola Pisano’s abilities as the most important precursor of Italian renaissance sculpture by reinstating antique representations. Therefore, surveys of the Italian Renaissance usually begin with the year 1260, the year that Nicola Pisano dated this pulpit.
And the Camposanto: The Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), also known as Campo Santo or Camposanto Vecchio (Old Cemetery), is located at the northern edge of the square. This walled cemetery is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Calvary, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade by Ubaldo de’ Lanfranchi, the archbishop of Pisain the 12th century. This is where the name Campo Santo (Holy Field) originates.
The building itself dates from a century later and was erected over the earlier burial ground. The building of this huge, oblong Gothic cloisterbegan in 1278 by the architect Giovanni di Simone. He died in 1284 when Pisa suffered a defeat in a naval battle of Meloria against the Genoans. The cemetery was only completed in 1464. The outer wall is composed of 43 blind arches. There are two doorways. The one on the right is crowned by a gracious Gothic tabernacle and contains the Virgin Mary with Child surrounded by four saints. It is the work from the second half of the 14th century by a follower of Giovanni Pisano. Most of the tombs are under the arcades, although a few are on the central lawn. The inner court is surrounded by elaborate round arches with slender mullionsand plurilobed tracery.
The Camposanto Monumentale once contained a large collection of Roman sculptures and sarcophagi, but now there are only 84 remaining. The walls were once covered in frescoes, the first were applied in 1360, the last about three centuries later. The Stories of the Old Testament by Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 15th century) were situated in the north gallery, while the south arcade was famous for the Stories of the Genesis by Piero di Puccio (c. late 15th century). The most remarkable fresco is The Triumph of Death, a realistic work by Buonamico Buffalmacco. On 27 July 1944, incendiary bombs dropped by Allied aircraft set the roof of the building on fire and covered them in molten lead, all but destroying them. Since 1945, restoration works have been going on and now the Campo Santo has been brought back to its original state.