The Cathedral and the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Piazza del Duomo, Firence, Italija

Website of the Sanctuary

+39 050 835011

Every day: 8:00 – 22:00

The square of the Cathedral of Pisa represents the best example of the Pisa Romanesque style through its magnificence and perfection, a harmonious fusion of classical, early Christian, Lombard and eastern motifs.

The buildings maintain a stylish unity. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Camposanto represent together the allegory of human life.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

It is called the Leaning Tower of Pisa but actually it was never used for defending the city; it is part of the religious complex in the Duomo Square and acts as its bell tower. It played an active role in both human and divine timekeeping with its seven bells – one for each musical note – the largest of which, cast in 1655, weighs a full three and a half tonnes!

It is known throughout the world for the beauty of its architecture, for its extraordinary tilt, which makes it an authentic miracle of statics, and for the fact that it stands in the universally renowned Piazza dei Miracoli, of which it is certainly the prize jewel. And this is why is the Leaning Tower of Pisa one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

HOW DOES THE TOWER MEASURE UP?

  • Height: 58,36 metres
  • External diameter: 15 metres
  • Weight: 14.453 tonnes
  • Inclination: (current) about 5.5°
  • Hewn stones: 29.424
  • Stone surfaces: 7.735 square metres
  • Capitals: 207
  • Staircase: 273 steps

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The Sinopie Museum hosts the big preparatory drawings recovered beneath the frescoes decorating the Camposanto and the Opera del Duomo Museum, at the moment closed for a restoration, will show the development of Pisa art and the great Middle Ages sculpture with a new and evocative museum path.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Founded in 1064 and consecrated with great pomp on September 26th 1118, the Cathedral was built in two stages, one by architect Buscheto, who created the original layout with the basilican body with four aisles and one nave, a transept with one nave and two aisles, and the dome on the cross vault, and one by Rainaldo, who extended the building and the façade.

The building was not finally completed until the last quarter of the XII century, when Bonannoís bronze leaves were placed on the central door, which were later destroyed by the devastating fire of 1595, after which many of the destroyed works were replaced and a vast decorative plan was started.

Outside

The outer facing of the Cathedral is decorated in alternating black and white shades in stripes of Arab influence and a massive use of reused materials from Roman monuments that emphasised the greatness of the city of Pisa, “altera Roma”. Such decorative features as lozenges, a bronze griffon of Islamic manufacture on top of the roof, and other Oriental-looking features, such as the elliptic-plan dome, rooted in the Mediterranean culture of the city and the architect, add shape and colour to a monument that is as much extraordinarily new as it is ancient.

Inside

Inside, the nave is edged by two rows of monolithic columns made of granite from the Isle of Elba, flanked by four aisles separated by smaller colonnades with large womenís galleries on top, covered by cross vaults and looking out onto the nave through some double-lancet and four-lancet windows. The nave is covered by a wooden coffered ceiling that in the XVII century replaced the original exposed trusses.

Rich and sumptuous are the decorations in the Cathedral of Pisa, the development of which is related to an often-troubled history marked by often-calamitous events that culminated in the fire of 1595. The only remains of the important commissions that completed the decoration of the Cathedral in the early 14th century are the mosaics on the apsidal conch – where Cimabue painted the figure of Saint John the Evangelist (1302 ca.), the new pulpit (1302-1310) by Giovanni Pisano and the disjoined sepulchral monument to Emperor Henry VII (1315).

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Leaning Tower or the Tower of Pisa

It is called the Leaning Tower or the Tower of Pisa but actually it was never used for defending the city; it is part of the religious complex in the Duomo Square and acts as its bell tower. It played an active role in both human and divine timekeeping with its seven bells – one for each musical note – the largest of which, cast in 1655, weighs a full three and a half tonnes! It is known throughout the world for the beauty of its architecture, for its extraordinary tilt, which makes it an authentic miracle of statics, and for the fact that it stands in the universally renowned Piazza dei Miracoli, of which it is certainly the prize jewel. And this is why it is one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

HOW DOES THE TOWER MEASURE UP?

  • Height: 58,36 metres
  • External diameter: 15 metres
  • Weight: 14.453 tonnes
  • Inclination: (current) about 5.5°
  • Hewn stones: 29.424
  • Stone surfaces: 7.735 square metres
  • Capitals: 207
  • Staircase: 273 steps

SINOPIE MUSEUM – THE “REVERSE” OF THE FRESCO

Destined to remain concealed beneath the finished work, the precious “sinopia” is the only graphic work that we still have of the early masters, for drawings on paper or parchment that have survived from way back in the Middle Ages are extremely rare. As the first step towards making a fresco, the sinopia is a drawing traced out on the first layer of plaster. It takes its name from “sinoper” or “sinopia”, the red pigment which is mixed with water and applied by brush.

This was the compound that the early frescoists adopted to tell the stories of the Old and New Testament on the walls of the Camposanto in Pisa, putting down their ideas, tracing out the scenes, outlining the figures and giving them volume through the use of chiaroscuro.

The sinopias housed in this museum are thus the preparatory drawings for the vast frescoes that adorned the walls of the Camposanto. Here we can admire and compare the styles of Bonamico Buffalmacco, the creator of the famous Triumph Over Death, of Taddeo Gaddi and Pietro di Puccio da Orvieto, who started the cycle portraying the Stories from the Old Testament, which was completed by Benozzo Gozzoli. This is the most extensive cycle of fourteenth-fifteenth-century graphics known to us.

UNCOVERING THE SINOPIAS

The Pisa collection is absolutely unique and it came to light as the result of a terrible event. A fire raged through the Camposanto during a bombing raid in the Second World War and this made it necessary to detach the frescoes from the plaster in order to save vast portions that had not been burnt, and to restore them. The outer film of paint was removed using the “strappo” technique, revealing the hidden sinopias beneath. Using the same method, these were themselves “torn off” the Camposanto walls and have been in today’s museum since 1979.

The Baptistery of San Giovanni

The Baptistery of San Giovanni was founded on 15 August 1152. It is here that the Sacrament of Baptism is administered and the Christian embarks upon the path of Faith. The reason that such a fascinating and enigmatic building was constructed was certainly the wish to endow the cathedral with a worthy adjunct: a Baptistery that, in terms of position, size, materials and style, would be in harmony with the majestic building that already stood opposite.

A PRODIGIOUS BUILDING

With a circumference of 107.24 metres, walls 2.63 metres thick at the base, and a height of 54.86 metres, it is the largest baptistery in Italy. The dome is clad with red tiles on the side facing the sea, and with lead sheets to the east. Like the Cathedral, the great cylinder is encircled by column arcading and built in zebra work of white marble and grey. Eight monolithic columns inside compete in height with those of the Cathedral, alternating with four pilasters. A women’s gallery, reached by a spiral staircase, gives onto the central area, offering a singular view of the intricate geometrical design, of Arabic inspiration, of the floor in the chancel enclosure.

ASTONISHING ACOUSTICS

The vault of the baptistery consists of a double dome – the inner one a truncated cone and the outer one a hemispherical dome. This singular architectural solution gives the Baptistery in Pisa the most exceptional acoustics, making it a monumental musical instrument. This is why, every thirty minutes, the attendant on duty gives visitors a brief demonstration, simply by singing a few notes and letting the fabulous reverberation of the majestic cylinder of the Baptistery do the rest.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Founded in 1064 and consecrated with great pomp on September 26th 1118, the Cathedral was built in two stages, one by architect Buscheto, who created the original layout with the basilican body with four aisles and one nave, a transept with one nave and two aisles, and the dome on the cross vault, and one by Rainaldo, who extended the building and the façade. The building was not finally completed until the last quarter of the XII century, when Bonannoís bronze leaves were placed on the central door, which were later destroyed by the devastating fire of 1595, after which many of the destroyed works were replaced and a vast decorative plan was started.

OUTSIDE

The outer facing of the Cathedral is decorated in alternating black and white shades in stripes of Arab influence and a massive use of reused materials from Roman monuments that emphasised the greatness of the city of Pisa, “altera Roma”. Such decorative features as lozenges, a bronze griffon of Islamic manufacture on top of the roof, and other Oriental-looking features, such as the elliptic-plan dome, rooted in the Mediterranean culture of the city and the architect, add shape and colour to a monument that is as much extraordinarily new as it is ancient.

INSIDE

Inside, the nave is edged by two rows of monolithic columns made of granite from the Isle of Elba, flanked by four aisles separated by smaller colonnades with large womenís galleries on top, covered by cross vaults and looking out onto the nave through some double-lancet and four-lancet windows. The nave is covered by a wooden coffered ceiling that in the XVII century replaced the original exposed trusses. Rich and sumptuous are the decorations in the Cathedral of Pisa, the development of which is related to an often-troubled history marked by often-calamitous events that culminated in the fire of 1595. The only remains of the important commissions that completed the decoration of the Cathedral in the early 14th century are the mosaics on the apsidal conch – where Cimabue painted the figure of Saint John the Evangelist (1302 ca.), the new pulpit (1302-1310) by Giovanni Pisano and the disjoined sepulchral monument to Emperor Henry VII (1315).

The Cemetery

The Cemetery is the last monument on Piazza del Duomo, its long marble wall flanking the northern boundary and completing its shape. It was founded in 1277 to accommodate the graves that until then were scattered all around the Cathedral. Archbishop Federico Visconti wanted the building to be a “large and dignified, secluded and enclosed place”. This is how one of the oldest Christian Medieval architectures for the devotion of the dead came into being.

OPERA DEL DUOMO MUSEUM
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – literally the “Museum of Cathedral Works” – opened in 1986 in the former Episcopal seminary, or Seminario Vescovile. It was the outcome of a long museum project designed to display and illustrate the art of Pisa, and in particular its mediaeval sculpture, which had its roots in the centuries-old Piazza. The most important sculptures removed from the buildings during restoration operations carried out over the years, and especially during the radical nineteenth-century works, had until then been kept in city collections and in the storage facilities of the Opera della Primaziale Pisana.

In the Cathedral

  • January 1st, Holy Mother of God
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 – 12.15 – 17.00 (officiated by the Archbishop)
  • January 6th, Epiphany
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 17.00
  • February 2nd, Candlemas
    17.30 (officiated by the Archbishop)
  • Palm Sunday
    8.00 – 9.30 – 10.45 Blessing of the olive branch in the Baptistery, Procession towards the Cathedral – 11.00 Mass of the Holy Passion (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 17.00 (Standard time)/18.00 (Daylight saving time)
  • Easter Triduum
    Holy Thursday: 9.30 Procession towards the Cathedral, it is followed by Chrismal Mass (Blessing of the Holy Oils) – 18.00 Holy Mass to remember the Lord’s Supper (Foot washing, Repository of the Blessed Sacrament) – 21.00 Community adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament
    Holy Friday: from 8.00 to 18.00 Community adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament – 18.00 The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord – 21.00 City penitential procession from the Chiesa del Carmine to the Cathedral
    Holy Saturday: from 15.30 to 18.00 Confessions – 21.30 pm Confessions – 22.30 Solemn Easter Vigil
  • Easter Sunday
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 Pontifical Mass (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 17.00 (Standard time)/18.00 (Daylight saving time)
  • Ascension
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (Convent mass with the presence of canons) – 12.15 – 18.00
  • Pentecostal Sunday
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 18.00
  • Sunday of the Holy Trinity
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (Convent mass with the presence of canons) – 12.15 – 18.00
  • Corpus Domini
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 – 12.15 – 18.00 (officiated by the Archbishop, it is followed by the Eucharestic procession)
  • 14 15 16 June, St Rainerius Triduum
    8.00 – 9.00 (Morning prayer with the community) – 9.15 – 18.00 Mass and Vespers with the community
  • June 17th, St Rainerius Celebration
    10.30 Procession towards the Cathedral with the bishops of Tuscany
    11.00 Solemn co-celebration officiated by the Archbishop
    18.00 Solemn Vespers officiated by the Archbishop
  • August 15th, Assumption of the Virgin Mary (to whom the Cathedral is dedicated)
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 18.00
  • 22 23 24 October, Triduum of the Madonna di Sotto gli Organi
    17.00 (Meditated Holy Rosary) – 18.00
  • October 25th, Celebration of the Madonna di Sotto gli Organi
    17.00 Solemn co-celebration with the Archbishop
  • November 1st, All Saints’ Day
    8.00 – 9.15 – 11.00 (officiated by the Archbishop) – 12.15 – 17.00
  • November 2nd, Commemoration of the Dead
    8.00 – 10.30 (officiated by the Archbishop. At the end of the mass blessing of the tombs in the Camposanto and Cathedral)
  • December 8th, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 – 12.15 – 17.00
  • December 24th, Holy Christmas Eve
    8.00 – 9.00 (Morning prayer with the community) – 9.15 – 22.00 opening of the Cathedral for the Confessions – 24.00 (Solemn Mass officiated by the Archbishop)
  • December 25th, Holy Christmas
    8.00 – 9.30 – 11.00 (Solemn Mass and Pope Blessing) – 12.15 – 17.00
  • December 31st, Last day of the year
    8.00 – 9.00 (Morning prayer with the community) – 9.15 – 17.00 (officiated by the Archbishop) and gratitude Te Deum

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