Basilica of San Piero a Grado

Ciborio, interno Basilica di San Piero a Grado (G. Bettini, Comune di Pisa)
Ciborio, interno Basilica di San Piero a Grado (G. Bettini, Comune di Pisa)
The current building was erected between the 10th and 12th centuries, but it is a very complex building in which numerous transformations have taken place, also studied through the archaeological excavations partially visible inside the basilica. The first place of worship in this area dates back to the 4th century AD, although, according to legend, in the year 44 AD San Pietro landed right here. It is said that during a terrible storm he was saved by this strip of land that at the time was surrounded by the sea. Arriving near Pisa, in Gradus Arnensis, he decided to erect a stone altar, the first in Italy. The exterior, mainly in Livorno stone and decorated with blind arches, within which we find 64 ceramic basins (the originals are in the Museum of San Matteo, in Pisa), shows some typical elements of the Pisan Romanesque. The bell tower, on the west side of the church, was blown up during the Second World War. After the war, the reconstruction of a new bell tower was undertaken but the funding was not sufficient to complete the work. An unusual element in the Pisan territory is the absence of a façade, destroyed in the 12th century, in place of which there is an apse, which contrasts the three apses to the south-east. Inside, the basilica has three naves, marked by two rows of 12 columns. Traces of 11th and 12th century frescoes are still visible. The central nave is decorated with a cycle of frescoes, the Stories of St. Peter, painted by Deodato Orlandi in the early years of the fourteenth century: a period of great splendour for the basilica, an important stop for many pilgrims for whom a portico was built around the building, which no longer exists. The cycle of frescoes is divided into three levels: from the bottom, the gallery of popes, from St. Peter to John XVII, with the indication of their names; above, the Stories from the life of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, San Clemente and San Silvestro; higher up the Heavenly City. The reading of the frescoes starts from the right of the main altar.
Curious fact: in the northern entrance of the Basilica there is a low relief that looks like a corncob, but how is it possible that this image is on the wall of a medieval basilica if corn spread to Europe after the conquest of the Americas? The mystery remains, but perhaps the figure only looks like a corncob and is actually the symbol of something different.

The stone of San Clemente: inside, under the late Gothic ciborium, stands the column of St. Peter, on which the Apostle placed a large stone to celebrate mass. Around it are the remains of the first early Christian church from the fifth century, with a single apse and of the three-apse church from the eighth century. According to tradition, San Clemente, in the act of consecrating the altar of Peter, had an episode of epistaxis and a few drops of his blood fell on the stone slab. Today, that stone fragment is in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Pisa.
Last update: 13/04/2021