Piazza del Duomo - Campo Santo Monumentale

Campo Santo Monumentale
Edificio - Campo Santo Monumentale (Opera Primaziale di Pisa)

The Cemetery, forming a backdrop to the Cathedral place on its north side, was the last monument to be built, beginning in 1277 under Giovanni di Simone.
It was named Campo Santo because tradition had it that the ground herewas mixed with soil from the Holy Land, carroed on Pisan ships returning from the 3rd Crusade. This large building was planned for to house the sarcophagi and other graves clustered for centuries around the Cathedral. For this reason, in 1277 Bishop Federico Visconti signed the act of donation of this land to build “an enclosed space” for use as a cemetery. At first it took the shape of a church, dedicated to the Trinity. Work was interrupted partly because of Pisa’s defeat in the battle of the Meloria; when it was resumed in the 1300s, the building acquired its almost perfectly rectangular form with a central cloister.

The external walls are in plain white marble, with 43 dead arches and two doors. The east door is the main entrance, above which is a Gothic tabernacle, carved in the second half of the 14th century, containing a statue of the Virgin and Child, and four saints. Inside there is a cloister with ornate Gothic arches under which are many Roman sarcophagi, once used for the burial of important people.

In 1360, work began on frescos along the walls of the corridors, the subjects of which were connected to the theme of life and death. Among others, are works by Buonamico Buffalmacco and Francesco Traini, the former of whom was the author of the famous Triumph of Death , and the latter of a Crucifix. Hanging in the Aulla chapel is “Galileo’s lamp”, that once hung in the Cathedral; while observing it, Galileo thought of the theory of the pendulum. A huge chain hanging on the wall is part of those that closed the entrance to the Porto Pisano. Following Pisa’s defeat at the Meloria in 1284, the chains were broken and shipped to Genoa, to be returned only after the Unification of Italy.

Last update: 19/10/2020
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