‘Pisa’s Piazza de Miracoli is world-famous for its Leaning Tower. However, this is only one of four historic buildings in the beautiful city square…’
The Leaning Tower/Campanile
The main reason people make the trip to Piazza de Miracoli is to view the Leaning Tower. It was originally used as a bell tower or ‘Campanile’ for the Cathedral next to it and is made of Italian marble.
The Leaning Tower has never stood fully upright. This was not intentional, but simply a design flaw. There’s no denying that the issue is the main reason that tourists flock to see it for themselves.
The tower’s foundations have been strengthened on numerous occasions to prevent further movement. Most of the work has been done on the soft ground beneath the tower, which caused the lean in the first place.
The current tilt is 4 degrees. Rather amusingly, this means there are 296 stairs leading to the south viewpoint and only 294 to the north. If you’re looking for the easier climb; definitely take the south steps.
The tower, as part of the overall Piazza de Miracoli, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Duomo, a grey and white mixture of marble and stone, more than stands up to its famous neighbour. The interior of the cathedral is no less impressive than the outer facade. It contains a number of important historical works. These include the ‘Griffin’ which, at more than 1 metre tall, is the largest Islamic sculpture in the world.
Italian master, Nicola Pisano, designed the cathedral’s pulpit. Amongst the Christian treasures houses within is one of the Jars of Cana. According to The Bible, Jesus used this to perform the miracle of turning water into wine. That man had some mad skillz.
The Baptistery of St John
This is the largest baptistery in Italy. Built from fine Italian marble, it stands at 55 metres high. The Baptistery has a touch more colour to it, seen in its dome’s Tuscan terracotta tiles.
The shapes of the interior and exterior roofs and domes means that the inside chamber of the baptistery is acoustically perfect.
The Cathedral is Romanesque in style at the bottom, and has a very Gothic point towards the top. The reason for the two different styles is that the building took so long to complete. Pisano designed the interior pulpit, as he did with the Duomo. The pulpit dates back to 1260.
Although the inside might lack some of the wow factor seen in Duomo, the exterior is outstanding. It’s well worth wandering around the whole of the outside and having a look at the creepy gargoyles keeping watch from above.
Somewhat unbelievably, the baptistery is actually taller than the Leaning Tower. Due to its width, however, it doesn’t look it. It’s only taller by a marginal amount and when measurements include the statue of St John perched on top.
The Camposanto was the final part of the Piazza de Miracoli. It’s a long building, which took nearly 200 years to build. ‘Campo Santo’ means ‘Holy Field’ in Italian and, well…what you see is what you get, tbh.
A bomb destroyed the majority of the cemetery building at the end of World War 2. The resulting fire burned the vast majority of frescoes, sarcophagi and other artefacts.
There are three chapels within the complex. A replica of the lamp that Gallileo used when he was figuring out pendulum movement sits in the Aulla Chapel. I won’t pretend I have the faintest idea what pendulum movement is, but it was v v important apparently.
Legend has it that bodies buried here would rot within 24 hours. The graveyard’s ‘sacred’ soil was brought in from Jerusalem. I’m not quite sure what Israeli soil has that Italian soil doesn’t, but 24 hours isn’t a long time for a body decompose, so I’m guessing it’s good stuff.
Have you visited the Piazza de Miracoli in Pisa?