Church of the Santo Sepolcro

Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro (M. Del Rosso, Comune di Pisa)
Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro (M. Del Rosso, Comune di Pisa)
The building, founded by the Hospitaller Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in the twelfth century, apperas to be slightly buried due to the elevations of the road surface in recent centuries. The octagonal-plan church ends at the top by a spire. The north and south doors have ferrules decorated with a phytomorphic decoration attributed to Rainaldo, master of the façade of the Cathedral. The bust on the façade, made by Santo Varni in 1859, represents Diotisalvi, probable author of the entire building. The Bell tower is contemporary with the construction of the church, but was never finished. Inside, the building presents a splendid octagonal ambulatory made even more impressive by the large pointed arches on which single lancet windows open. There is also a small stone well, used by Santa Ubaldesca, according to local tradition. The fifteenth-century table of the Madonna with Child is attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli. The Venetian-style floor shows a large tombstone of Maria Mancini Colonna, grandson of Cardinal Mazzarino.


History in a nutshell: the church was founded by the Hospitallers around 1113, although the first mention is from 1138. Adjacent to it was a small hospital, partly still visible. On the bell tower an inscription, huius operis fabricator/deus te salvet nominatur, reveals that its possible architect was Diotisalvi (architect of the Baptistery of Pisa). In the 16th century, the external perimeter was surrounded by a sandstone porch, removed in the nineteenth century. The church was the seat of the priory of the Knights of Malta (the palace in Lungarno Galilei still shows its large coat of arms).
The love of Santa Ubaldesca for the poor and pilgrims: Ubaldesca Taccini spent many years in the complex of the Santo Sepolcro of Pisa looking after the pilgrims who passed by via Aemilia Scauri. Ubaldesca Taccini was born in Calcinaia (Pisa) in 1136 and according to legend, at the age of 14, while she was busy preparing bread, she saw an angel appear before her. She was so surprised that she almost fell, but the angel supported her and told her that the nuns of the Jerusalem order were waiting for her in Pisa. The girl left immediately. From that moment on, every day she devoted herself to prayer, to the care of the nuns, to works of penance and almsgiving. The water she drew from the well inside the church, once blessed by her, was transformed into wine.
The life of Maria Mancini Colonna from the court of Louis XIV to Pisa: On the floor, at the entrance to the church, there is a large sepulchral slab dedicated to Maria Mancini Colonna, nephew of Cardinal Mazzarino. Maria Mancini Colonna was born in Rome in 1639 and when she was very young she moved to France, invited by her uncle, along with other nieces, to the court of the one who would become King Louis XIV, with the hope that she would marry someone of high rank. Maria was not considered among the most beautiful. On the contrary, they called her 'dried and black plum', so she tried to excel in the arts of music, dance and literature. She fell in love with the future king, even if not reciprocated, until the young sovereign, caught by an illness, was forced to a long hospital stay, during which she took the opportunity to be close to him, watching over him day and night. An intimate love story was born between them. However, Queen Mother Anne of Austria did not consent to their marriage, so Maria was exiled to Brouage. Louis XIV married the Infanta of Spain and on the death of her uncle Mazzarino Maria was sent to Rome to marry Prince Onofrio Lorenzo Colonna. The chatter about her relationship with the French sovereign, in reality only Platonic, put her in a bad light in the Roman aristocratic environment and everyone doubted her virgin status: on the day of her wedding in the streets of Rome many shouted the motto 'the cow hangs on the Column! '. Onofrio soon discovered the falsity of the allegations and the couple had three children. Over time, Maria discovered her husband's numerous betrayals and decided to leave, running away from one place to another, but Prince Colonna found her and had her locked up in a convent in Madrid. On his death, she was free and decided to spend the last years of her life in Pisa, where the Medici used to spend their quiet winters. She died there in 1715, at the age of 72.
Last update: 01/04/2021
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