Pisa and its Leaning Tower

This is an excerpt from the book “Pisa in one day

Photos © Saro di Bartolo
Photos © Saro di Bartolo

During its period of greatest prestige and power, Pisa, which was a rapidly expanding city, wanted to erect its most important church, crowned by what is now known as the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.

The architecture of the four structures, their harmony, wasn’t the fruit of a single mind. In fact, the square is the result of the work of more than one brilliant architect working over several periods on the overall structure. Reinterpreting the geometry of architecture and borrowing from Islamic art, they invented a new style Romanesque.

Pre-dating the Florentine Renaissance this style is found in figurative art as well as in the work of exceptional artists such as Nicola and his son Giovanni, who influenced artists such as Brunelleschi, Donatello and Michelangelo himself.

Photos © Saro di Bartolo
Photos © Saro di Bartolo

Pisa – The Baptistery

Construction of the Pisa Baptistery was begun in 1153 by Diotisalvi, the architect who designed the church of Santo Sepolcro. The monument was rebuilt in 1278, as revealed in an inscription located between two pillars inside. There are no clear ideas regarding how work on the Baptistery proceeded.

The order of arches that encircle the Baptistery is decorated by heads and sculptures attributed to Nicola and Giovanni Pisano which are considered among the most important works.

At the center of the monument there is the beautiful baptismal font and, near the altar, the pulpit, work of the great Nicola Pisano in 1260.

Photos © Saro di Bartolo
Photos © Saro di Bartolo

Pisa – The Camposanto

The Pisa Camposanto (cemetery) was founded in 1277 following the design of Giovanni Simone, and it was completed in 1464. It was home to the marvelous series of frescoes which, beginning with The Triumph of Death, attributed to Buonamico Buffalmacco, and continuing with the works of Spinello Aretino, Antonio Veneziano, Andrea da Firenze, Taddeo Gaddi, Piero di Puccio and Benozzo Gozzoli, were disastrously ruined in the bombing of August 1944.

Restoration of the frescoes proved to be difficult, and it was the work of “strappo”, the act of detaching a fresco from a wall in order to transfer it to a canvas or other support, which revealed the original design of the works of the above mentioned artists. Restored to their original beauty, the sinopie are the main attraction of the Museo delle Sinopie.

Photos © Saro di Bartolo
Photos © Saro di Bartolo

Pisa – The Duomo

An open space away from the ancient walls was chosen as a suitable place for the city’s Duomo. After the victorious expedition of Palermo (1063), construction began under the direction of Buschetto.

In its conception, the Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, was intended to reflect the architectural style of the whole of the sacred structures around the dome.

However, 100 years later, another great architect, Rainaldo, conceived and directed the prolongation of the three bays, terminating the splendid facade and raising the nave to the completion of the Duomo, unique and grandiose, that we see today.

Photos © Saro di Bartolo
Photos © Saro di Bartolo

Pisa – The Bell Tower known as The Leaning Tower

The first stone of the Leaning Tower was laid on Assumption Day, 9 August 1173. While it is possible to locate the names of the artists who signed their works in the other buildings in the square, the Leaning Tower has no such autograph. This curious fact adds to the several hundred year of long debate over the first author and the first ten years of the construction of the Leaning Tower.

In the year 1185 the first signs of sagging foundations were seen, and the consequent inclination of the tower caused the halting of the construction for nearly a century. The continuation of the tower was entrusted to Giovanni di Simone who had been working on the bell tower of San Francesco.

The architect showed extraordinary skill in limiting the consequences of the inclination, thereby allowing construction to continue until 1284, the date of the defeat of the Meloria.

The final storey of the bell tower, the seventh, used as a belfry. was conceived and realized by Tommaso Pisano approximately halfway through the 14th century

End of the excerpt, you can but the entire content without advertising: “Pisa in one day” book.

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