Camposanto Monumentale Travel Guide
Also known as the Camposanto Vecchio (or old cemetery), the Camposanto Monumentale is located in the north side of the Campo dei Miracoli in a large rectangular cloister with Gothic round-headed windows opening into the courtyard. Construction began in 1278 by architect Giovanni di Simone, with the cemetery completed in 1464. Its history dates back to the 12th century when the archbishop of Pisa, Ubalo de’ Lanfranchi, brought back sacred soil from Golgotha.
The cloister was the primary burial ground for upper class citizen up until 1779. The walls of the Camposanto were lined with 14th and 15th century beautiful frescos. However, most of these were either damaged or destroyed during the World War II bombardment on July 27, 1944. Restoration work has slowly been done to return the remaining frescos, along with their preliminary “sinopie” drawings, to their pre-war state.
The building is composed of an outer wall with 43 blind arches, as well as two doorways. These doorways have some wonderful artwork done around a Gothic tabernacle, with the right one containing the Virgin with Child, surrounded by four saints. Many of the tombs are under the arcade, with a few scattered on the central lawn.
The cemetery itself is composed of three chapels. Chapel Ammannati is the oldest one and is named after the Ligo Ammannati, a teacher in the University of Pisa. Other chapels include the chapel Aulla made by Giovanni della Robbia in 1518 and the chapel Dal Pozzo, which was commissioned by Carlo Antonio Dal Pozzo, the archbishop of Pisa, in 1594.
What to See
The cloisters at the Camposanto Monumentale are filled with funerary monuments, including an extraordinary 84 Roman sarcophagi that managed to survive the war; others were not so lucky. Other monuments are Neoclassical works of art, floor tombstones with reliefs of various effigies, and smaller plaques that serve as memorials.
In the 14th century, Roman sculptures were brought to the Camposanto to serve as decoration. Together with the surviving sarcophagi, these ancient works form one of the largest and most valuable collections of Neoclassical art in Europe, and served as the inspiration for many of Pisa’s medieval and early Renaissance works and sculptures.
There are also some notable frescoes that can be seen at the Camposanto Monumentale, some of which also date back to the 14th century. An unknown artist created the Triumph of Death, the Last Judgment, and Stories of the Anchorites. This artist is simply known as the Master of the Triumph of Death. Famous composer Liszt was inspired by these frescoes in 1839 to create his Totentanz, “Dance of Death”.
Harbor chains from the port of Pisa were taken by the Genoese in 1342 but eventually returned to Pisa in 1860; they know hang from the walls of the Camposanto. Outside the Camposanto, crenellated walls dating back to the 12th century can be seen. There is also a Romanesque lion atop the wall near the Porta de Leone, so named because of that sculpture.
Tips and Advice
- General visiting hours for the Camposanto are as follows:
- November to February – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- March – 9:00 am to 6:00 am
- April to September – 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
- October – 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
- December 22 to January 6 – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- November 1 – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- March 23 to March 29 – 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
- June 17 to August 31 – 8:00 am to 10:00 pm
- October 27 to November 1 – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Ticket prices for just the Camposanto cost 5 Euro. Entrance is free on the 1st and 2nd of November.
- Certain monuments and art pieces may be under renovation, with access possibly restricted to it at times. It’s best to inquire with the administration to find out the schedule of renovation work being done to the area.