La Sapienza, via della Sapienza

Porticato interno - La Sapienza (G. Bettini, Comune di Pisa)
Porticato interno - La Sapienza (G. Bettini, Comune di Pisa)
The history of the Sapienza began in 1472, when Lorenzo il Magnifico restored the Studio Pisano, documented from at least the XII century, identifying it as the Piazza del Grano in the district of Santa Maria (“Mezzo” at the time). The intent was to gather all the university lessons that were held in different locations (churches, houses of professors, etc...) into one space. It was Cosimo I de’ Medici who officially inaugurated the building in 1543, at the entrance of which he placed the large Medici coat of arms sculpted by Tribolo and Pierino da Vinci. The large courtyard represents the centre of knowledge, surrounded by the double loggia that leads to the classrooms. Today, the schola magna, or Aula Magna Storica (Great Historical Hall) is still used for official academic inaugurations and degrees, and features a gallery of portraits of illustrious professors. However, the scene is dominated by the statue of Galileo Galilei, sculpted by Paolo Emilio Demi in 1839 on the occasion of the First Congress of Italian Scientists. The New Aula Magna (Lecture Hall) still consecrated the Pisan genius with a cycle of frescoes, the Galilean Triptych , painted by Adolfo De Carolis (1915-1922) and embellished with beautiful stained glass windows painted by Galileo Chini. Today the Sapienza is home to the University Library and the Faculty of Law.
The history of the University of Pisa: some Pisan “magisters” were already known in the Carolingian era, such as the learned Pietro, deacon of Pisa, whom Charlemagne brought with him to the court around 744 AD, so he could devote himself to teaching grammar. In the twelfth century we know of Pisan jurists, also thanks to the presence of the Pandett Pisanee, part of the Digest, while in the thirteenth century we have mentions of doctors in medicine. The official birth dates back to September 3, 1343, when the Pisano Study was raised to the rank of General Study thanks to the papal edict of Pope Clement VI In supremae dignitatis (In Supreme Dignity). After a period of interruption following the first Florentine conquest (1406), it was restored by Lorenzo il magnifico, who also transferred the General Study of Florence to Pisa, creating a single university centre. From the 16th to the 19th centuries it was enlarged with new departments and in 1839 it hosted the First Congress of Italian Scientists. In 1862, the Pisan University was among the six national primary universities, together with Turin, Pavia, Bologna, Naples and Palermo. In 1900, it became a High Rank University and in 1969 it inaugurated the first degree course in Computer Science. Today, together with the Scuola Normale Superiore and Sant'Anna it is considered among the most prestigious universities in the world, with around 60,000 students coming from all over Italy and from abroad, thanks to exchange projects such as Erasmus, and Leonardo, and to the many hosting associations such as the Erasmus Student Network. The WIS! (Welcome International Students!) is the front office dedicated to holders of qualifications obtained abroad who intend to enrol at the University of Pisa.
The anatomical theatre, a curiosity near the Sapienza: in via della Sapienza, in front of the entrance of the University, we find the ancient church of Santa Maria Vergine (Virgin Mary), now deconsecrated. On the left side a plaque tells us of when that space was dedicated to the lessons of the medical school, inside the anatomical theatre inaugurated in 1544 by Cosimo I of the Medici family, with the scientific contributions of anatomist Andrea Vesalio. A reconstruction is found inside the Certosa di Pisa, in Calci (PI). Galileo Galilei also studied here.
Alchemy, an ancient and mysterious art: Right inside the Sapienza there was an Athanor, or alchemical oven, where the substances were cooked to bring them back to their primordial state. In the Dictionnaire Mytho-Hermétique (Mythological-Hermetic Dictionary) we read, “in terms of vulgar chemistry, it is a stove that has the shape of a square and a long cube, in which there is a tower communicating with one of the sides by means of a tube. This tower fills with coals, lights up, and the heat is transmitted to the stove by means of the tube […] Therefore, it was given the name of Athanòr...”. Already in medieval times, Pisa was considered one of the most important centres of alchemical knowledge, also thanks to the works of a certain Rusticus and primarily of Costantino Pisano, an author of the thirteenth century who wrote the Liber secretorum alchimiae (Book of secret alchemy) tackling with ease the theme of the relationship between alchemy and theoretical-practical knowledge such as medicine, astronomy and prophecy, claiming that all metals can be brought back to their four primordial stages through transmutation and then studied. Judicial astrology was also taught, which studied the position of the planets and their influence on the sub-lunar world and Divination, which studied the fluids contained in some people that made them capable of influencing the animal entrails and initiating a premonition process. Both sciences were condemned during the Council of Trento in 1563 and considered heretical.
The Sapienza was also the set of some cinematographic films:
  • Noi siamo le colonne (We are the columns) (1956) by Giuseppe D'Amico, with Vittorio De Sica and Antonio Cifariello. The leaning tower appears in the initial scenes, but the film was also shot in other parts of the city, several scenes in the Lungarni, at the Sapienza, in Piazza Dante...
  • L'uomo privato (The private man) (2007) by Emidio Greco. A mystery movie shot between Pisa and Turin.
A poet linked to the academic world: Caterina Franceschi Ferrucci settled in Pisa in 1844, where her husband, Michele Ferrucci, was called to teach at the university. Caterina decided to open a salon where Italian and foreign intellectuals could meet, including Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi. Also in contact with Giuseppe Montanelli, she was inspired to write poems in which she expressed her love for the homeland and its independence, urging concord and even sacrifice of one’s life for the redemption of national unity. She wrote classical verses (Prose and verses, 1873); her pedagogical writings were very widespread: On the moral education of the Italian woman, 1847; Intellectual education, 1849-51; Moral readings for girls, 1851-52; Religious and moral teachings for young Italians, 1877, etc.).In 1871 she was the first woman to be named correspondent of the Accademia della Crusca.
Last update: 01/04/2021
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