Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo (Mura di Pisa)
Piazza del Duomo (Mura di Pisa)
L’Ardea roteò nel cielo di Cristo, sul prato dei Miracoli (Ardea rotated in the sky of Christ, on the meadow of Miracles) (Gabriele D'Annunzio. Maybe yes, maybe no, 1910): thanks to these words Pisa’s Cathedral square is famous all over the world as Piazza dei Miracoli. The monumental complex was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and represents the political power and wealth of the city in medieval times, as well as being its most important religious and artistic centre. Five great monuments represent a human being's path of life.
  • Baptistery of San Giovanni, the first day of life: work of art by the master Diotisalvi, built starting from 1153.
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the richness of life: its construction, which bears the signature of the master Busketo, was started in 1063.
  • Spedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito (New Hospital of the Holy Spirit), or Santa Chiara: suffering and hospitality: built in 1257 by Giovanni di Simone.
  • Campo Santo Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), death in the Holy Land: built starting from 1277 by Giovanni di Simone.
  • Bell tower of the Assumption (Leaning Tower of Pisa), the resurrection of the soul: the leaning icon of the city, started in 1173 by workers still unknown.

The square in a nutshell:
  • The Baptistery of San Giovanni, a great work of art by the master Diotisalvi, which since 1153 introduces the faithful to Christianity through the rite of Baptism. The circle, a symbol of divine perfection, reveals within itself a dense network of references to the hybrid and therefore imperfect condition of the human being who aspires to purification through the octagonal baptismal font, the work of Guido Bigarelli of Como in 1246. It houses one of the masterpieces of world art, the Pulpit by Nicola Pisano (1260). The exterior is a succession of Romanesque and Gothic lines that rise towards the large hemispherical dome, which hides a second conical dome. The latter, given its shape, contributes to creating a curious acoustic resonance effect: the echo of the Baptistery.
  • The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Pisa Cathedral, as well as the primatial church, designed and built starting from 1063 by Busketo, with its 100 meters in length is one of the masterpieces of Pisan-Romanesque architecture. The whole building was enlarged by Rainaldo, author of the façade, in the first half of the XII century and reveals interventions of great prestige by masters such as Guglielmo and Biduino. The statuary is of great interest and an example is the large Virgin and Child by Andrea Pisano (1343). The ovoid dome gives the building a Byzantine harmony and the bands of white limestone and black stone of Mount Pisano bring it closer to the great Arab mosques (such as the Mezquita de Cordoba). The bronze doors of the façade are a remake of the originals, which were destroyed following the fire of 1595 which instead left the San Ranieri door intact, a work of 1179 by Bonanno Pisano. The interior of the Cathedral is solemn, marked by 5 naves divided by monolithic granite columns from Elba. In the centre, the great Pulpit by Giovanni Pisano and the chandelier by Vincenzo Possanti, known as the lamp of Galileo Galilei, dominate the scene. The apsidal basin is embellished by the dashing mosaic of the Pantocrator, which Cimabue worked on, while large paintings and frescoes (works by Andrea del Sarto, Sogliani, Benvenuti, Lomi, and Ghirlandaio) decorate the walls. Of great value is the urn of San Ranieri, patron of Pisa, by Foggini, located in the southern transept together with the sarcophagus of Emperor Arrigo VII, by Tino di Camaino.
  • The Hospital of Santa Chiara, or Spedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito, was born at the behest of Pope Alexander IV who in 1258, through a papal edict, imposed some conditions for the withdrawal of the excommunication that had been looming over the city since 1241. For Pisa it was the starting point of the renowned local healthcare system, and today the complex in its oldest part houses the Museum of the Sinopie del Campo Santo. The sinopias are the preparatory drawings of frescoes, made with red powder from Sinope, a Turkish city on the Black Sea.
  • The monumental Campo Santo (Cemetery) was the real reason why Pisa became one of the protagonists of the Italian 'grand tour' from the end of the eighteenth century. The monumental Cemetery was built by Giovanni di Simone in 1276 to contain the elegant Roman sarcophagi surrounding the Cathedral. During the second crusade of 1146, the Pisans brought to the city large quantities of soil from the Calvary mount, the Golgotha, with the aim of exploiting its properties which, according to an ancient tradition, accelerated the process of decomposition of the bodies and thus the resurrection of the soul. That same soil was the starting point of the future Campo Santo. Until the fifteenth century, the term camposanto did not exist in the Italian language, except to indicate the Pisan building. A place of burial and art, with more than 300 tombs and monuments of great value, like the tomb of Giovanni Boncompagni by Bartolomeo Ammannati, the Inconsolable by Lorenzo Bartolini or the tomb of Andrea Vaccà Berlinghieri by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Of great value are the Roman finds, among which is the sarcophagus of Phaedra (II century), used for the burial of Beatrice of Canossa, mother of Countess Matilde and the sarcophagus of the Muses (III century). The large cloister, marked by arcades in elegant and flowery Gothic style, frames a surface of 2000 square meters of frescoes, painted between the 14th and 17th centuries, including the renowned cycle of the Triumph of Death by Bonamico di Buffalmacco (1336) and other masterpieces by Taddeo Gaddi and Spinello Aretino. The northern wall is dominated by the Old Testament cycle by Benozzo Gozzoli. Unfortunately, on 27 July 1944, a disastrous fire caused by the explosion of a bullet near the Aulla chapel, where we now find the original lamp by Galileo Galilei, partially destroyed the decorations of the Campo Santo and almost 60% of the wealth once kept here has been lost.
  • The Campanile (bell tower) or Leaning tower of Pisa. It is curious that a bell tower that does not even mention the name of its creator has become, thanks to its slant, the most famous monument in the world. Sometimes 'mistakes are necessary, useful like the bread and often also beautiful: for example the tower of Pisa'; (Gianni Rodari). In 1173, construction work began for a column of columns (Rudolf Borchardt), circular like the Baptistery and visible from every place in the Pisan plain. Five years after laying the first stone and reaching the third ring, there was the first subsidence of the ground, which caused a slight inclination of the tower. The work was interrupted and resumed about a century later by architect Giovanni di Simone, who partially corrected the inclination and raised the tower by three more floors. Tommaso Pisano completed the construction of the bell tower in the eighties of the fourteenth century with the addition of the belfry. Despite numerous restoration works, the slant became increasingly threatening and from 1990 to 2001 the tower was subjected to one of the most important consolidation works that included an underground excavation process, reducing the inclination by about 45 centimetres.
The square of the Medici: the renewal of the city of the Medici did not spare the Piazza del Duomo, where from 1468 until 1483 the great cycle of frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Campo Santo was created, under the government of Piero I il Gottoso and by Lorenzo il Magnifico. In 1594, with Ferdinando I, the Dal Pozzo chapel was built. Also in the Campo Santo, the façade of the Spedale Nuovo was modified, opening large windows and plastering the walls to erase their medieval appearance and above all also intervening within the Cathedral. The disastrous fire that broke out in the Cathedral on the night of 24 October 1595, the fault of a master builder, Giovanni Domenico from Milan, whose intent was to work on the welding of the lead sheets that make up the roof, initiated a campaign of restoration and modernization. The bronze doors by Bonanno disappeared and were replaced with the current ones by Portigiani, the Pulpit by Giovanni Pisano was removed and the creation of the great tribune of the Cathedral was started and above all the lacunar wooden ceiling was covered with gold.
In this square, crossed every day by people from all over the world , and where a thousand different languages can be heard while walking, ever since its inception has been a symbol of the union of different peoples. All the monuments in Piazza del Duomo are in Pisan-Romanesque style, some, like the Baptistery, had a later evolution towards the Gothic style. What is Pisan Romanesque characterized by? The style was born here, with the Cathedral of Buscheto in 1064, and is recognizable by the mix of several styles: chromatic alternation of marble surfaces; the insertion of 'arabesque' decorative elements, such as marble inlays, or geometric inlays of different marbles; filling the blind arches with lozenges; and finally a crowning, on three levels in this case, of walkable loggias, of Lombard style. Pisa, as a Maritime Republic, had the opportunity to travel all over the Mediterranean creating exchanges, not only of goods, but also of ideas, cultures, and people... this led to the creation of a new style for the time, which then spread into the other monuments of the square, in other churches of Pisa, but also in other cities: you will find the Pisan-Romanesque style in Lucca, Siena... and in Sardinia, one of the islands conquered by Pisa. Another example of these cultural exchanges is represented by the Griffin: the original bronze sculpture (dated 11th century) is kept in the Museo dell’Opera della Primaziale, a copy can be found on the top of the Cathedral. It is an Islamic manufactured item, probably born as a perfume burner, that become a war trophy of the Maritime Republic. The Kufic characters decorate the exterior of the Griffin and say, 'perfect blessing, complete well-being, perfect joy, eternal peace and perfect health, happiness and good fortune for the owner'.
There are numerous descriptions of the monuments of the Piazza del Duomo, made by writers and travellers from all over the world, in every century since the eleventh. The monument most described by the writers of the Grand Tour is not the tower, but the Campo Santo, which leaves you entranced by the funerary monuments, the Roman sarcophagi and the cycle of frescoes.
The Piazza del Duomo, known as Piazza dei Miracoli, owes its new name to Gabriele D'Annunzio, who fell in love with Pisa.

Cit. L’Ardea, roteò nel cielo di Cristo, sul prato dei Miracoli. Sorvolò le cinque navi concluse del Duomo, l’implicito serto del Campanile inclinato sotto il fremito dei suoi bronzi, la tiara del Battistero così lieve che pareva fosse per involarsi gonfia di echeggiamenti…Il Camposanto!…la grande urna quadrilunga ove la forza della città dorme fra un cipresso e un roseto, con i piedi congiunti, con le mani in croce sul petto…

Gabriele D’Annunzio, Forse che sì, forse che no, 1910

Cit. Mio caro Giorgio, io non arrivo mai a liberarmi da l’incantesimo toscano. Sono da qualche giorno a Pisa che è primaverile e tuta d’argento.Passo delle lunghe ore al sole sui gradini del Duomo, sotto le mura merlate, di contro una porta di bronzo mentre simboli parlano al mio animo silenzioso…

Gabriele D’Annunzio, Epistolario, lettera al sig. Hèrelle, 16 gennaio 1896.
Numerous films were shot under or close to the Tower, but not all of them include it in their scenes.
Here are a few:

With the Tower:
  • Totò at the Giro d'Italia (1948) by Mario Mattoli. A film shot in many Italian cities, Pisa appears as one of the stages that Totò cycles past, acclaimed by a crowd of fans. Among the cyclists in the film there are many champions of the time: Fausto Coppi, Giancarlo Astrua, Gino Bartali, Vito Ortelli, Fiorenzo Magni...
  • Souvenir d'Italie (1956) by Antonio Pietrangeli. A comedy starring Alberto Sordi, Vittorio de Sica, Antonio Cifariello and Dario Fo, the latter in the role of a tour guide.
  • Noi siamo le colonne (We are the columns) (1956) by Giuseppe D'Amico, Griffon 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...
  • The girl of the Palio (The Love Specialist) (1957) by Luigi Zampa, starring Vittorio Gassman. Much of the film is shot in Siena, but Pisa also appears as part of the Tuscan Tour that the protagonist, played by Gassman, takes a young American tourist on. The car speeds through Piazza dei Miracoli and you can see all the monuments that Gassman describes to the girl.
  • Esterina (1959) by Carlo Lizzani. The protagonist Esterina, played by Carla Gravina, is a country girl who runs away with two truck drivers (played by Geoffrey Horne and Domenico Modugno). Together they tour Italy, also passing through Pisa. One scene from the film is shot in Piazza dei Miracoli and another, a more dramatic one, in Bocca d'Arno.
  • Padre Padrone (1977) by the Taviani brothers, based on the novel with the same title by Gavino Ledda. The film won the Palme d'Or for Best Film at the 30th Cannes Film Festival. As a child, Gavino grew up as a shepherd in Sardinia, in the 1940s, but when he arrived in Pisa for his military service, he began his journey of emancipation from his father and rural life. In the film we see him climbing the bell tower and suddenly sitting halfway up the tower, with his feet dangling. In the past there were no safety rails and one could walk along the small loggias around the tower.
  • Amici Miei atto II (All my friends part 2) (1982) by Mario Monicelli (Scene of the Tower Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u86SaLEncos) This scene in Piazza dei Miracoli was filmed on 28 April 1982, with many Pisan extras. The film was shot in the wake of the success of Act I, seven years earlier, and brought together the same cast: Ugo Tognazzi, Philippe Noiret, Renzo Montagnani, Adolfo Celi and Gastone Moschin. The protagonists stage a rescue of the tower: 'Arms, ropes, beams, everything needed to avert a collapse announced as imminent'.
  • Figlio mio infinitamente caro (My dearest son) (1985) by Pisan director Valentino Orsini, with Mariangela Melato, Ben Gazzara, Sergio Rubini, and Valeria Golino. A dramatic film about a paternal love for a son. The film is entirely shot in Pisa: not only at the tower, but also in Piazza dei Cavalieri, the Lungarni, the museum of San Matteo, the Campano tower, Borgo Stretto....
  • Superman III (1986) by Richar Lester (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQuThW5c4DQ).
  • Il Burbero (The Gruff) (1986) by directors Castellano and Pipolo, with Adriano Celentano and Angela Finocchiaro. Film shot between Florence, Siena and Pisa. The protagonist lands at the Pisa airport and we see him in a car passing by Piazza dei Miracoli.
  • Ora o mai più (Now or Never) (2003) directed by Lucio Pellegrini, screenplay by Pisan Roan Johnson, with Violante Placido, Elio Germano, and Riccardo Scamarcio. The film is largely shot in Pisa, the protagonists are university students who go from the occupation of a social centre to parties, debates, and end up in the G8 in Genoa. In a scene in Piazza dei Miracoli, a banner unfolds from the top of the tower of Pisa, a symbol of this student’s struggle, with the words: 'This is straight, it is the world that is warped'.
  • The Simpsons (2005) episode The Italian Bob. The episode in which they predicted a few years in advance that a McDonalds would be opened next to Piazza dei Miracoli.
  • L’amica geniale (My brilliant friend) (7th episode, II season of the TV series, 2019). After graduating from the Scuola Normale Superiore, the young Lenù, one of the protagonists, strolls around Piazza dei Miracoli with her boyfriend.

Without the tower:
  • Medea (1969) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (Scene with the Centaur and Giasone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLd9vTMHH0A). Pisa becomes Corinth, and the monuments of Piazza dei Miracoli are filmed only in their lower parts to show only the white walls, and thus taking on a different appearance.
  • Good Morning, Babylon (1987) by the Taviani brothers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhbJaawq7AU). The two protagonists, Andrea and Nicola, are Tuscan and come from a family of craftsmen and church restorers. (The names want to remember Andrea Pisano (1290 - 1348) and Nicola Pisano (1223 - 1281), two of the greatest medieval artists who contributed to the art of the period with works such as the Madonna del Latte (Nursing Madonna), the pulpit in the baptistery of Pisa...).

We also want to point out:
  • The man who saved the tower Interview by Lorenzo Garzella (Associazione Acquario della Memoria). Leon Weckstein in 1944 was a Sergeant of the allied troops that were arriving from the South to the war front on the Arno. On 22 July, he was sent on a secret mission to Pisa, with the task of observing the tower, to find out if there was a German lookout post installed there. He was ordered to shoot at the tower in case of any suspicious movement. Several times he was about to do that, but he never shouted 'Fire!'.

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Recapito 338 7291090
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177, Via Santa Maria
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