Pisa Cathedral Complex | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Pisa Cathedral Complex

Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

Lucy Davidson

17 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Pisa Cathedral Complex

The Pisa Cathedral Complex, known simply as Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), houses one of the world’s most celebrated ecclesiastical landscapes. In addition to the cathedral itself, the Pisa Cathedral Complex includes a church, a baptistery, a cemetery and one very famous campanile or bell tower – better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

While its leaning tower may have stolen the spotlight somewhat, the Pisa Cathedral Complex is exceptional in its own right, having been described by UNESCO as ‘an outstanding example of medieval Christian architecture.’

History of Pisa Cathedral Complex

It was in 1063 that the construction of Pisa Cathedral began under the direction of architect Buscheto. It was funded by the spoils received fighting against the Muslims in Sicily in 1063, and as one of the superpowers of the Mediterranean, Pisa needed a Duomo that would reflect its prestige.

Its architecture includes various stylistic elements: classical, Lombard-Emilian, Byzantine, and Islamic, which reflects the international presence of Pisan merchants at the time. This new style was called ‘Pisan Romanesque’.

In 1118 the cathedral was enlarged, with three nave bays being added as well as a new façade. Afterwards, it maintained the title of biggest Cathedral in Europe for almost a century. Other enlargements were made until the 14th century.

Radical inventions occurred after the fire of 1595, including a full roof replacement. In the early 18th century, the inside walls of the cathedral were redecorated with paintings depicting the stories of the blesseds and saints of Pisa.

In the 16th century, a 19-year-old Galileo made a particularly important discovery inside Pisa Cathedral. The movement of the cathedral’s chandelier inspired his theory of isochronism of small oscillations. The complex further contributed to the history of science by acting as a forum for some of his experiments.

Another name often given to the Pisa Cathedral Complex is Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracle Square).

Pisa Cathedral Complex Today

Today, visitors can enjoy the stunning architecture and artworks that characterise Pisa’s Cathedral and famous Leaning Tower.

The exterior is particularly famous, with exquisite marble Islamic-style arches being so well-worked that they almost look like embroidery. The famous bronze doors were made by Florentine artists in the 17th century after the wooden doors were destroyed by fire in 1595.

One of the most famous pieces inside is Giovanni Pisano’s masterpiece marble pulpit, as well as Byzantine-style mosaics, a golden ceiling, and 68 monolithic columns brought from Sardinia.

Getting to Pisa Cathedral Complex

From the centre of Pisa, the Cathedral is reachable in under 5 minutes via Via Contessa Matilde. By car it takes around the same amount of time along the same route.

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