"The exterior" The Duomo - Cathedral Tip by toonsarah
The Duomo - Cathedral, Pisa: 133 reviews and 263 photos
You have come to the Campo die Miracoli, and indeed to Pisa itself, to see the Leaning Tower, naturally. But if you are like me your eye will be drawn immediately not to the tower but to the striking marble-white cathedral that dominates the space so magnificently. This is dedicated to the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary and has been so dedicated since its foundation (800 years before this was declared a dogma of the Catholic faith). It is is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and deserves a fair part of your time and attention while in the city.
The cathedral was initially founded and built in the 11th century, on the remains of the old Etruscan and Roman temples. A fire in 1595 destroyed part, including many of its medieval art treasures, but the layout and much of the structure still dates back to that earlier period, and what was lost then has been restored to glorious effect. Look out for the several Roman stones used in its construction (we saw some on the southern wall) which were placed there by the medieval builders as a reminder that after Rome itself, Pisa considered itself the most important city in the region.
My favourite part of the building was the awesome west facade (photo 2). This has three portals with bronze doors (photos 4 and 5), which are replicas of those by Giambologna destroyed by the 1595 fire. Above the doors is a row of arched spaces, and above these four rows of open arcades with delicate columns and Moorish-inspired arches (photo 3), showing the influence of Mediterranean sailors who would have used the then nearby sea-port. The facade rises to a pointed gable much taller than the cathedral roof itself. In its four corners are statues of the four evangelists, and at its highest peak one of the Madonna and Child.
In summer, as when we visited, entry to the cathedral is through the central door of this facade, but at other times of the year you will use the door opposite the Leaning Tower in the south transept. Make sure you have bought your ticket already ? see my Campo dei Miracoli tip for some information about this.
Address: Piazza Duomo
Directions: In the Campo dei Miracoli in the northwest corner of the old town ? follow Via Santa Maria to its end
Phone: 050 560 547
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