Campo dei Miracoli Travel Guide
Any visit to Italy would not be complete without seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa but travellers and visitors will be pleasantly surprised that that tourist attraction isn’t alone but part of a complex of architectural wonders? Along with the tower, travellers can see the Camposanto Momentale, the Duomo, and the Battistero San Giovanni.
Italians have many names for this compound. Its formal name is Piazza del Duomo for the Pisa Cathedral. Poet Gabriele d’Annunzio was the one who coined the name Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles. It is also sometimes called as Campo dei Miracoli or Meadow of Miracles. Whatever names it may be called the Catholic Church, the institution maintaining the site, considers the piazza miracle-inspiring.
The first constructions in the Piazza dei Miracoli started as early as 1043. Indeed this impressive square has seen so much religious and national history that it is not surprising that it earned the honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to See
Note that the piazza is not named after the Tower of Pisa because the real star of the show is the cathedral which the locals fondly call the Duomo or the dome. The Duomo is a hallmark of several ages of Italian architecture. Its interiors and its pointed arches point to a Byzantine influence. A view of the front of the cathedral shows a glorious interplay of white stone, grey marble and colored marble discs. A master artist called Rainaldus designed the façade to complement the overall architectural design of Busketo in 1064. In 1595, artisans from Giambologna replaced the massive wooden doors and their works can be seen to this day.
The Battistero di San Giovanni
Standing at 54 meters high, this baptistery is considered to be the largest one in Italy. Construction of the Battistero di San Giovanni started in 1152 in order to replace an older baptistery. The work would not be completed until over two hundred years later in 1363. Diotisalvi, its architect, initially worked with a Romanesque design but shifted to Gothic architecture, gifting the baptistery with the touches of both schools of architecture.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
There is nothing quite like a visit to the piazza and then seeing the Tower of Pisa. Although the most famous of the landmarks here, it is only the third structure to be built after the cathedral and the baptistery. Although its construction began in 1173, just twenty years behind the baptistery, work on the tower stopped after reaching the third level because it had already started leaning by a degree then due to the weak subsoil. Construction only restarted a full century later in 1272; the builders had to make one side higher to compensate for the tower’s slanting. The top floor of the tower was only added and finished in 1319.
Considered to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world, the Camposanto Monumentale or Camposanto Vecchio is the reason why the site is considered holy by the devout and the Roman Catholic Church alike. During the fourth crusade in the 12th century, the Archbishop of Pisa, Ubaldo de’ Lafranchini brought a shipment of soil from Calvary and had the cemetery built around it.
Tips and Advice
- Check the façade of the Duomo for Busketo’s tomb as well as an inscription for the building of the church and the victory against the Saracens.
- Go into the cathedral and check out the mosaic Christ in Majesty in the apse done by Cimabue and the one of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the cupola done by Riminaldi.
- Check out the pulpit which is considered to be the masterpiece of Giovanni Pisano.
- The cathedral contains the bones of St. Rinaldi, the Patron Saint of Pisa and the tomb of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII.
- Pay 15 euros to go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Hey, you could also just enter for free and stay on the ground floor but where is the fun in that?
- Look at the 84 remaining Roman sculptures and sarcophagi in the Camposanto Monumentale.
- Visit the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Espirito or the New Hospital of the Holy Spirit in English. Built in 1257, it served as a hospital for pilgrims, the sick, and for abandoned children. Now, it is no longer just a facility for healing but for history as well since it now hosts the Sinoplas Museum where the drawings which used to be in the Camposanto Monumentale can be found.
- According to travellers, the town of Pisa itself is not a tourist trap. Sit down for a while, find a nice restaurant and see how the Pisans live. Travelling is not just about seeking sights but basking in the atmosphere and culture of a people.