On a previous trip we were travelling up from the South towards the north and we saw Pisa off to the side while on the Autostrada. We have been to Pisa many years ago, and we noted that on a subsequent trip with Chris and Carmen we would have to plan Pisainto the itinerary.
Pisa is one of those places you have to see, but we all felt a little off when we walked down the street, turned a corner and was met with a the Campo just packed solid with tourists.
Yes the tower is leaning. While on previous trips we just walked up to the tower and climbed to the top, not everything is controlled with tickets, and tickets are sold in blocks of 40. So every twenty minutes 40 people can climb the narrow stairs to the top.
The time wait was too long for us today, we wanted to get to Florence, but we did purchase tickets to see the Cathedral and the Bapistry.
The Campo dei Miracoli, also known as the Field of Miracles, holds the cathedral on which work started in 1063, the Leaning Tower, the Bapitstry which started was built in the 12th century and the Campo Santo that dates from 1278.
Pisa was a powerful state, in 1060 Pisa engaged in their first battle with Genoa. The victory consolidated its position in the Mediterranean. In 1077 Pope Gregory VII the new "Laws and customs of the sea" instituted by the Pisans, and Roman Emperor Henry IV granted them the right to name their own consuls. In 1092 Pope Urban II awarded Pisa the supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia. The decline of power began in 1284, loss of battles, conquered by Florence in 1406.
The Piazza del Duomo ("Cathedral Square") is a wide, walled area, this is a world centre of medieval art. Here, the big four are: the Duomo, the Leaning Tower (the cathedral's campanile), the Baptistry of St. John and the Camposanto. The square is also known as Piazza dei Miracoli ("Square of Miracles"). Also it is sometimes mistakenly called Campo dei Miracoli ("Field of Miracles") the latter is a fictional field in the book Pinocchio where a gold coin seed will grow a money tree.
The Bapistry is the largest of its kind in Italy. It is open from 8 till the evening. Famous for its architecture and accoustics. Immense inside, but sparse in decorations. Built on the unstable sand of the area, the Baptistry, as well as the Cathedral, lean 0.6 degrees. In the marble pulpitNicola Pisano carved in 1260 the note: The interior is spacious and acoustically perfect. Stand in the centre and sing a note.
The Cathedral, well I remember when they would not let me in as I was wearing shorts and I asked Karen to pop her head in and tell me if it would be worth a run back to the car a few km's away to get my pants. Yeah, one of those statements you can not belief you ever made. It would have been worth a walk back to Rome to get my pants.
The mosaic in the apse, of Christ in Majesty, is flanked by the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, survived the fire of the 1500's. The mosaic is similar to the ones in the church of Monreale, Sicily. The coffer ceiling of the nave was replaced after the fire of 1595. The carved pulpit, made by Giovanni Pisano, dates from 1302-1310 and it also was not damaged in the fire. This is considered one of the best masterworks of medieval sculpture. It was packed away during the redecoration and was not rediscovered and put back in place until 1926.
The church holds the bones of St Ranieri who is the patron saint of Pisa as well as the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII.
The Leaning Tower is something it is hard to take your eye off of. We were lucky to visit it many years ago when you just walked up to the top, that was before all the work to stabalize the tower took place.
The Camposanto is a cloister in the Campo die Miracoli built of white marble. Legend is that Archbishop Lanfranchi took the Pisan fleet into the Crusades and came back with soild from the Holy Land in their boats. This way the wealthy of Pisa would be burried in extra special land. Most of the paintings were destroyed as a result of a bomb in 1944.
The tower began to sink after construction progressed to the third floor in 1178. Construction stopped for almost 100 years because of battles with other areas. This provided time for what was built to settle, otherwise, the tower would have toppled.