Piazza Martiri della Libertà and the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies

Piazza Martiri della Libertà (L. Corevi, Comune di Pisa)
Piazza Martiri della Libertà (L. Corevi, Comune di Pisa)
The square was born at the behest of Grand Duke Ferdinand III of Habsburg-Lorraine and is the work of architect Alessandro Gherardesca, who also signed the base of the statue of Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo I, a work by Luigi Pampaloni from 1829. Originally in this area stood the district of Rivolta, where the Roman walls turned into the civita vetera, then demolished to make the city more modern. The works in this space lasted a long time and in the meantime the area became a place of entertainment for the nobility, with the performance of horse racings and other playful events, such as the game of the armlet. We can say with certainty that the great horse racing tradition of the city was born in this urban space. Today, the square offers a unique spectacle of colours, from the white marble to the green and then yellow-golden leaves of the plane trees.
Galileo in the cloister of the Gesuati: 'Similmente in essa città (Pisa), sì come erano consueti, andarono publicamente predicando la salute dell'anime: ed esortando in comune, e in particolare le persone ad acquistar le virtù, e lasciare i vizi: e vi feciono molta spirituale utilità, e molto per loro fu lodato, e onorato Gesù Cristo' ('Similarly in this city (Pisa), as was customary, they went publicly preaching the health of souls, and exhorting the people to acquire virtues, and leave vices; and they did much spiritual good, and thanks to them Jesus Christ was much praised and honored') The order of the Gesuati settled in Pisa in 1437 and here they preached peace, poverty and great humility, shouting to everyone the saving name of Jesus, hence their name. Founded as a free lay movement by the Sienese banker Giovanni Colombini between 1360 and 1364, the order had a short life and with a papal bull the Romanus Pontifex, Pope Clement IX suppressed it in 1668. The convent of San Girolamo dei Gesuati of Pisa was thus annexed to the contiguous Benedictine monastery of Sant'Anna. In 1617, together with his companion and disciple Benedetto Castelli, Galileo Galilei made numerous astronomical observations from the cloister of San Girolamo (visible inside the school) as well as from the nearby bell tower of the church of Santa Caterina di Alessandria. Castelli called his teacher 'huomo adornato d'ogni scienza e colmo di virtù, religione e santità' ('a man adorned with all science and full of virtue, religion and holiness') and patiently dealt with Galileo's interests especially in Rome, when he was subjected to the first trial by the Inquisition. Castelli is also remebered for the famous letter sent to him by Galileo in 1613: in it the latter maintains that the Holy Scriptures are the divine truth, but can be interpreted incorrectly. Furthermore, Galileo himself specifies that Sacred Scriptures and Nature must go hand in hand because they are both descendants of God, 'perché, procedendo di pari dal Verbo divino la Scrittura Sacra e la natura, quella come dettatura dello Spirito Santo, e questa come osservantissima esecutrice de gli ordini di Dio' ('because Sacred Scriptures and nature proceed equally from the divine Word, the first as dictation of the Holy Spirit and the second as the most observant executor of God’s orders').


The excellence of Pisa, the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies and specialization: its origins date back to 1785, when Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo di Lorena established the Sant'Anna Conservatory for the education of young women of civil status. The modern institute was initially born from the union between colleges for the study of sciences annexed to the Scuola Normale Superiore, the Medical-juridical college. In 1967, the merger with the Antonio Pacinotti College gave birth to the Higher school of university studies and specialization, organised into the subject areas of social, applied and experimental sciences. From 1987, the School has its permanent headquarters in the former monastery of Sant'Anna (from which it takes its name) and the Jesuit convent of San Girolamo.
The SensHand glove: a study conducted on 90 subjects, developed by a group of researchers from the Institute of Bio-Robotics of the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies has shown that in patients with reduced olfactory capacity, a risk factor for the development of Parkinson's within 5 years, it is possible to identify slight motor deflections (not detectable otherwise) that characterise the onset of the disease. The test was successful thanks to a special hi-tech glove, called SensHand, capable of detecting, measuring and analysing the movements of a person's upper limbs in search of hidden anomalies.
Near this square was the house of the Mrs. Mason (Lady Margaret King 1772-1835) who on 26 October 1827, a couple of weeks before Leopardi's arrival in Pisa, founded the Accademia dei Lunatici (The Acasemy of Lunatics). Its emblem depicts a night vision of Piazza dei Miracoli under the moon, surmounted by a crown with three 'Fool's Caps'. The motto, written under the coat of arms was 'Se non sono matti non ce ne volemo' ('If they are not crazy we don’t want them'). The Lunatici, each named after a constellation, gathered in the Mason house every other Monday. In addition to literary activities, the Academy was also interested in political issues.
After Napoleon's arrival in Italy, in the 'Jacobin triennium' (1798-99) some trees in the square, such as elms and plane trees, were considered the trees of liberty, symbol of republican life and of the fall of absolutist regimes. Used for civil ceremonies and celebrations, the first civil unions in history took place around them: if two married couples, in the presence of the mayor and three witnesses, made, clockwise, with the clapping of their hands, three rounds around the tree, they were married singing ...Sotto quest’albero di verdi foglie, O cari amici, Questa è mia moglie... Sotto a quest’albero bello e fiorito, Questi, il vedete, è mio marito. Se poi volevano divorziare (…Under this tree of green leaves, O dear friends, This is my wife... Under this beautiful and flowery tree, This, you see, is my husband). And if they wanted to get a divorce... they had to walk the same path three times in an anti-clockwise direction. Quick and easy.
Last update: 01/04/2021
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