History in a nutshell: The church was founded in 1087 and dedicated to San Sisto in honour of the victory over the Saracens of Al Mahdiya and Zawila on 6 August. Until modern times, the church was under the patronage of the Municipality, which carried out the certification of deeds in the building. The appearance of the structure is the result of numerous restorations carried out between the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Arabic epigraph: The church is a monument to the intense and complex relationship between Pisa and the Islamic world in the Middle Ages. The ceramic basins, in most cases of Islamic origin, are the first indication of the multicultural context that characterised the city during its period of maximum expansion, which took place in the 11th and 12th centuries. Al Mahdiya and Zawila were key points for Mediterranean trade, carried out by Pisan merchants and plagued by frequent attacks by pirates. In 1087 Pisa, Genoa and Amalfi intervened in restoring peace in the territory, the church was born from the success of the enterprise, which became the symbol of the nascent municipality and its power in the Mediterranean. For this reason, the Arabic epigraph, in Kufic script, stolen from the Balearic Islands in 1115 was placed on the counter-façade. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Merciful! Men: what God promises is true! May worldly life not deceive you! May the Deceiver not deceive you about God! Emir Abu Nasr is dead - May God make his face shine on Muhammad. The epigraph was in honour of Emir al Murtadà, who died on Saturday 7 January 1094.
Lo Die di San Sisto: on 6 August, dedicated to Pope Sixtus II, a martyr of the third century, Pisa remembers the victories of its fleet that took place on that day. In front of the tombstone, placed on the side of the church in 1966, not only the glories of the city are remembered, but the victims of all wars and at 9.00 pm all the bells of the city ring to greet the big day once again. Here are some of the celebrated dates:
- 6 August 1087, the Pisansafter conquering Pantelleria, landed on the African coast where they conquered Zawila and Mahdiya;
- 6 August 1113, the Pisan army, led by bishop Pietro, sailed towards the Balearic Islands, which was conquered with a campaign that lasted for over a year;
- 6 August 1119, the Pisans defeated the Genoese in Portovenere;
- 6 August 1135, the Pisans conquered Amalfi and other cities and castles but then were defeated and put to flight by the king of Sicily Ruggero Altavilla;
- 6 Augosto 1262, the Pisan fleet defeated the Genoese fleet in the waters of Portovenere.