The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a five-aisled Romanesque basilica (95m/312ft long, 32m/105ft wide) of white marble with aisled transepts and an elliptical dome over the crossing, was begun in 1063, after the naval victory over the Saracens, to the design of a Pisan architect named Buscheto, and was consecrated, still unfinished, in 1118. Towards the end of the 12th century a new west front was added by the architect Rainaldo and the principal apse was completed.
Address: Piazza dei Miracoli, I-56100 Pisa, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Entrance fee: FREE
The splendid façade of the cathedral in Pisa is clearly articulated and richly decorated. Above the lower part with its arches and pilasters and its three doorways are four orders of dwarf galleries, their disposition reflecting the section of the nave and aisles. On the highest point of the pediment is a figure of the Madonna by Andrea Pisano. The arcading on the façade is continued round the side walls. The transepts, projecting well beyond the aisles, end in small apses. The semicircular main apse is very finely worked. Over the crossing, dominating the whole church, is the finely proportioned dome, on an oval plan. The three bronze doors (1595) in the façade merit particular attention. The central door has scenes from the life of the Virgin, the smaller ones to the right and left scenes from the life of Christ.
Porta di San Ranieri
The Porta di San Ranieri (on the east side of the south transept of the cathedral in Pisa), through which visitors usually enter the cathedral is very fine. The bronze doors, cast about 1180, have reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. In the south transept can be seen the Tomb (by Tino di Camaino, 1313) of the Emperor Henry VII (1308-13), who is referred to by Dante in the "Divine Comedy". To the right of the principal apse the Sagrestia dei Cappellani houses the Cathedral Treasury (two bronze reliquaries, gold and silver objects, etc.). On the right-hand pier at the near end of the choir is a "St Agnes" by Andrea del Sarto, on the left-hand one a "Madonna and Child" by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani and in the apse a mosaic (13th-14th century) of Christ enthroned between the Virgin and John the Evangelist (the latter by Cimabue). The fine bronze lamp (1587) is traditionally said to have given Galileo the idea of the swinging of a pendulum.
The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral in Pisa is the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano (which is similar to the one in the Church of Sant'Andrea in Pistoia). It was originally created between 1302 and 1311, taken to pieces in 1599 and put together again, not entirely correctly, in 1926. Giovanni Pisano's vigorous style, inspired by new ideas, marked a development beyond the severe style of his father Nicola, as can be seen by comparing the angular pulpit by Nicola Pisano in the baptistery with the rounded forms of the one by his son in the cathedral.The pulpit is supported on columns (the shorter ones borne on lions) and figures of the Archangel Michael, Hercules and Christ (with the Four Evangelists round the base) and an allegorical figure representing the Church (with the Four Cardinal Virtues). On the central support are personifications of Faith, Hope and Love. Above the capitals are Sibyls, Prophets, Evangelists and Saints, and in relief panels round the pulpit lively representations of the Birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Kings, the presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the Slaughter of the Innocents, the Betrayal, Christ's Passion and the Last Judgment.
Map of Pisa Attractions