Inside Pisa's Miracle

The Italian eclectic poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, who saw it from a plane, was the first to coin the expression "Prato dei Miracoli", for its white marble monuments on the surrounding green lawn. From then on, Piazza del Duomo, its original name, would be known worldwide as Piazza dei Miracoli. Today we will take you into a virtual journey to Pisa's miracle, one of the most famous and beautiful square worldwide. Let’s go!

As you might notice looking at the city map, the square is not in a central position, but formerly hosts a cemetery area and the site of a first early Christian cathedral. The first monument we are going to meet is the Cathedral. Built between 1064 and 1118, it is a marvelous example of Pisan Romanesque architecture. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, is located in the center of Piazza dei Miracoli, with the Baptistery in front and behind the Bell Tower. If we focus on the construction, we can find many influences by classical, late antique, Lombard-Emilian, Byzantine, Arab styles.

Indeed, though the Cathedral has a Latin cross plan, the ellipsoidal dome inspires to Islamic style. The façade, by Rainaldo, is made up of pillars and round arches on four floors above the three doors. San Ranieri’s door, entrance to the Church, is studded with 24 bronze tiles, real masterpieces by Bonanno Pisano, depicting prophets and stories from the New Testament.

The dome is decorated with 17th century frescoes and stands on very high arches of Islamic architecture inspiration. Works of art are not left to imagination: the paintings by Andrea del Sarto, the "Madonna under the organs”, the Absidale Mosaic representing the Christ Pantocrator flanked by the Virgin Mary and San Giovanni Evangelista, the extraordinary pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, recomposed and rebuilt after the fire of 1595.


Getting out from the Cathedral, in front of you, the Baptistery of Pisa, the largest in Italy, proudly stands. Its construction began in 1152 under the direction of Diotisalvi and saw the participation of many artists, including Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Above the main dome there is another small dome that raises the bronze statue of Giovanni Battista.

We continue our journey and head to the Camposanto, which borders Piazza dei Miracoli to the north. The ancient cemetery is enclosed by a rectangular-plan gallery, covered in marble. Part of the land was brought from Golgotha, after the participation of Pisa in the third crusade of 1203. It is used as a museum, preserves beautiful works of art including sarcophagi and frescoes. The building and the works that were preserved suffered great damage during the bombings of 1944, the long restoration work that followed led to the recovery of some precious works of art, among which the sinopias now preserved in the Museum of Sinopie.

Last but not least, perhaps the most famous monument of Pisa, its symbol, the Bell Tower or the Leaning Tower. Inaugurated in August 1173, the Tower is the work of Bonanno Pisano and Guglielmo, the sculptor of the original pulpit of the Cathedral. The Tower, is constituted by 6 orders of arcades practicable, superimposed on the ground floor of a base with blind arches, designed according to the structure of the bell towers of Ravenna. It seems that the Tower, under construction at the third frame, due to the collapse of the soil of an unsuitable nature to bear heavy weights, tilted. The builders, worried about the slope, decided then to suspend the works, resumed a century later from Giovanni di Simone, who used all his skills to lighten the weight of the hanging part and modify its inclination proceeding upwards. Much later Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, in 1350, added the belfry. 

So, after this little journey, you have now no more excuses to postpone your coming. Pisa is waiting you to be discover!

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