The Cathedral of Pisa

The Cathedral of Pisa

The Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta) is the main cathedral of the city, built in honor of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the 11-13 centuries.

The cathedral forms the basis of the architectural ensemble located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), which also includes the Battistero San Giovanni (San Giovanni Baptistery) and the Tower of Pisa (Campanile Torre pendente).

History of the origin of the Cathedral of Pisa

Work on the construction of the Cathedral of Pisa began in 1064, designed by the Italian architect Busceto di Giovanni Giudice. The funds for the construction of the cathedral were taken from tribute collected from the Balearic Islands.

According to the architect’s original design, the style of the cathedral was intended to symbolize the flourishing of Pisa’s trade relations and contain elements of Byzantine, Islamic, and Lombard styles. This is the so-called Pisa Romanesque style.

The facade was designed by the famous architect Rainaldo in the 12th century and the work was carried out by sculptors led by the masters Biduino and Guilielmo.

The cathedral of Pisa was badly damaged by a fire in 1595, but it was reconstructed. Throughout its history, it has been restored several times. For example, the interior of the cathedral was significantly altered in the 17th and 18th centuries.

However, the cathedral continues to fascinate connoisseurs of Italian art with its architectural and interior decoration to the present day.

Modern times

Undoubtedly, this monumental cathedral represents one of the main attractions of Pisa, along with the nearby tumbling bell tower. Of particular interest are the amazing decorations of the cathedral, created by famous sculptors and craftsmen of Italy.

Be prepared that it will take quite a while to see the cathedral and all the works of art in it.

The Cathedral of Pisa is a masterpiece of architecture from the Pisa Romanesque period and in 1987 the entire architectural ensemble, located in Piazza de Miracoli, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The architecture of the Cathedral of Pisa

The Cathedral of Pisa is a true masterpiece of Italian architecture created in the Romanesque style.

Facade

The exterior of the cathedral looks quite monumental. Originally it was in the form of a Greek cross with equal sized crossbars, in the center of which there was a dome. If you look at the plan of the modern cathedral, it has the form of a Latin cross.

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Its facade is made of white marble and gray stone with the addition of decorative elements of colored marble. Above the central entrance can be seen the name of the master Rinaldo, who is the author of the facade.

Also on the outside of the cathedral is the tomb of Bussetto which bears an inscription which commemorates the starting date of the construction of the cathedral.

Central Gate

The main eye-catcher is the powerful door made of bronze. Giambologna was responsible for their creation.

However these doors are not the original. They replaced wooden doors that were burned in a fire in 1595.

It should be noted that the faithful did not enter the cathedral through the central doors, but through the portal of Porta di San Ranieri, built by Bonano Pisano in 1180. This portal is located directly in front of the bell tower.

If you look at the Cathedral of Pisa from the central gate, you can see high above it the statue of the Madonna and Child and on the sides the sculptures of the four evangelists. Directly above the doors are four rows of open-air galleries with several columns.

The sculpture of the Griffin of Pisa

The original sculpture of the Griffin of Pisa was placed on the facade of the cathedral (on the east side). It is the most important 11th century Muslim sculpture of Pisa in terms of its size.

Today the original is in the Cathedral Museum and a copy is in its place.

Interior

The interior decoration of the Cathedral of Pisa is a real work of art. The most striking features are the black and white marble designs, the high dome with colorful frescoes, and the gilded ceiling with the coat of arms of the Medici.

The powerful columns between the aisle and nave are of granite and were brought to the cathedral from a mosque in Palermo in 1063. They are made in the Byzantine style.

Pisa Cathedral

Photo: clearlens / Shutterstock.com

Mosaics in the apse

Most fascinating is the mosaic in the apse depicting Christ surrounded by the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John. The creator of part of the mosaic is the famous Cimabue (Benvenuto di Giuseppe), who worked on the head of the apostle in 1302. The fresco of the dome, depicting the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, was created by the master Riminaldi.

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Fortunately, this mosaic was not damaged in the fire of 1595. However, most of the other Renaissance art in the cathedral was destroyed by fire.

Cathedrals

Also of particular cultural value is the pulpit, made by the famous master Giovanni Pisano in 1302-1310. It is a magnificent example of sculpture from the medieval period. At the bottom of the pulpit are columns placed on the backs of lions.

The main part of the pulpit depicts nine religious scenes from the New Testament: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Slaughter of the Infants, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, the Crucifixion, and the Last Judgment. White marble was used to create the sculptures.

Another pulpit, situated near the altar, is no less elaborate. On it 27 episodes taken from the Sacred history are represented. The pulpit was painted by Tuscan painters such as Sodoma, Andrea del Sarto, and Domenico Beccafumi.

What else to see

Much of the decor in the cathedral belongs to 17th-century pieces. Particularly famous is the monstrance near the altar of the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, made by the sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini.

When visiting the cathedral, one should also pay attention to the 13th-century icon created by Berlingieri – “Our Lady with Child”.

Here are the relics of St. Ranieri, who is considered the patron saint of the city. A large number of believers come to the cathedral to worship the relics of this saint who has powerful healing powers.

Also in the cathedral is the tomb of Emperor Henry VII of Rome. The tomb was skillfully decorated by the master Tino da Camaino in 1315. Today, however, some of the original sculptures decorating the tomb are in the cathedral museum.

Legends

According to tradition, the great scientist Galileo Galilei made several discoveries, not only from the tower of Pisa, but also in the cathedral.

By observing a lamp hanging in the cathedral, he derived his famous theory on the motion of cosmic bodies. Currently, this famous lamp is in the Aulla Chapel, which is located in Campo Santo.

How to get to Pisa Cathedral

The address of Pisa Cathedral is Piazza dei Miracoli. You will not get lost – this cathedral can be seen from afar and is located in the heart of the city. From Pisa Centrale train station walk about 35-40 minutes.

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opening hours

The cathedral and the other sights in the square are open from 10.00 to 17.00 in the winter season and from 9.00 to 20.00 in the summer season.

Detailed schedule for the desired date, see the official website of the Cathedral Square www.opapisa.it/en/.

Ticket prices

Admission to the Cathedral of Pisa is free as of 2022, unlike the other sites that make up the architectural ensemble in Piazza della Wonderland.

If you want to visit only the Cathedral of Pisa separately from the other sights, you will be issued a free ticket with a strictly fixed visit time indicated on it.

If you buy a separate ticket to San Giovanni Baptistery, Campo Santo Cemetery or Museo dell’Opera del Duomo for 7 euros, or a combined ticket to several attractions, you can enter the Cathedral at any time during its opening hours.

As for combined tickets, the following options are available:

  • Campo Santo, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – 10 Euro;
  • The above attractions plus the Leaning Tower of Pisa – 27 euros.

A separate climb to the Leaning Tower of Pisa costs 20 Euros.

Ticket prices may vary: consult the official website for details.

Excursions in Pisa

If you want something more interesting than the traditional walking around the city by map, try a new format of sightseeing. In modern times more and more popular are unusual excursions from the locals! After all, who knows the history and the most interesting places of Pisa better than a local?

You can see all the tours and choose the most intriguing one on the Tripster website.

The Cathedral of Pisa

Pisa is a rather tiny and cozy Italian town. In the historic center is the Piazza della Wonderland with an entire architectural complex. The main structure is the Cathedral of Pisa, which Italians call Duomo di Pisa. It was built in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cathedral is beautiful in its design and is a real pride of the citizens of the city. It is considered a true masterpiece in the Romanesque style.

History of construction

The beginning of the construction of Pisa’s Cathedral is in 1063. At the initiative of the local archbishop B. Giovanni Giudice and under his constant supervision, the works continued for several decades. Enhanced by various elements, the Romanesque style began to take on a distinctive coloring. The expression “Romanesque Pisa” even appeared.

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There are several striking points that will not escape the eyes of architectural connoisseurs. For example, the open gallery above the entrance includes low semi-arches, which were used in Moorish buildings. The interior decoration and the numerous mosaics correspond to the Byzantine direction. In this way the builders intended to show not only the richness of the city, but also its diversity and the presence of strong international ties. Sailors returning from the voyage shared their impressions of what they had seen and interesting ideas, which the builders were happy to adopt.

In the process of construction there was a competition between the cathedrals of Pisa, Venice and some other cities. In order to realize the vainglorious plans of the townspeople, the best masters of the Middle Ages were invited.

From the works of writers of the XI century it is known that as early as 1092 the bishop of Italy held a service in the Cathedral of Pisa, but the documents indicate that it was consecrated only in 1118.

Alas, but the terrible fire of 1595 destroyed many paintings and constructions of the cathedral. Immediately after the tragedy the citizens zealously began to restore the main religious building of Pisa. For this purpose the most eminent masters from different parts of Italy came.

Architectural features

The cathedral of Pisa is a beautiful ensemble and a favorite landmark that has long stepped outside the city. It is famous throughout Italy. It amazes numerous tourists with its appearance and elaborate details. Each facade has its own features, the western side deserves the most attention. It depicts the Virgin Mary with the little Jesus surrounded by the four authors of the Gospel.

At the entrance to the cathedral, the massive gates are worth a close look. They were installed after the fire. On the bronze surface, covered with a centuries-old patina, are several large and small paintings on biblical themes.

The interior rooms of the cathedral are very light and spacious and are noted for their richness and skillful decoration. The main material used for decoration is black and white marble. Some elements are additionally covered with gilt. These include the vaulted ceiling and the coat of arms of the Medici family.

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The gaze of visitors necessarily stops at the beautiful nave, surrounded by columns in the Corinthian style. These columns were made long before the construction of the cathedral of Pisa. They were captured during the battle of Palermo and brought to Pisa.

Artworks

One of the few works of art that survived the terrible fire was a beautiful mosaic. It depicts Jesus with the Virgin Mary and St. John. It is on the apse and can be viewed by tourists.

The most valuable piece of art is the carved pulpit, by G. Pisano. It is justifiably called the most beautiful creation of medieval Italy. The pulpit rises on simple columns and pillars in the shape of the human body. It is as if the Atlanteans and Caryatids carry it on their backs. The reliefs fixed along the upper border of the pulpit depict the entire story of Christ’s life.

In the Cathedral of Pisa one can see the tombs of important persons of the city. The left part of the façade keeps the crypt of its creator (Busceto Giovani). The tomb of St. Raniereus, who became the patron saint of Pisa, is located inside the cathedral. The remains of Henry VII and Gregory VIII are also buried here. Some tombstones were destroyed in a fire.

Surprisingly, the cathedral is slightly inclined. Similar to its famous bell tower, it has shifted because of the unstable ground. The angle of inclination is very small, but noticeable up close.

Information for tourists

The Cathedral of Pisa continues to operate as a religious building. It hosts services and celebrates religious festivals. The schedule varies depending on the day of the week and the season. To learn more about the schedule, visit the website: www.opapisa.it. Admission to the grounds is free. To visit the museum or other areas of the complex you will need to buy a ticket.

How to get there

Pisa is quite a compact and very interesting city. From the airport or train station you can walk to the Square of Wonders. If you carefully look at all the monuments and sights on the way, you can spend about 45 minutes. If you walk quickly, you can reach the Pisa Cathedral in 15 minutes.

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