Duomo di Pisa Travel Guide
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta can be found in the center of the Campo dei Miracoli. It is a large, five-aisled basilica with a three-aisled transept and an elliptical dome over the crossing. Construction began in 1063 by the Pisan architect Buscheto commemorate the naval victory over the Saracens. Several additions were made in the 12th century, with the west front and the completion of the principle apse done by architect Rainaldo.
The Cathedral is a great example of the Pisan-Romanesque style of architecture, with the interior lined with black and white marble. In 1595, most of the medieval art was destroyed in a fire. Fortunately, the more important pieces like the pulpit survived the disaster.
The body of the patron saint of Pisa, Ranieri, as well as the Roman emperor Henry VII lies within the Cathedral.
What to See
The facade of the Cathedral is a marvel of both architecture and beauty with its richly decorated design. It houses four small galleries above the lower part of its arches and doorways. The prominent figure of Madonna by Andrea Pisano can be seen on the highest point of the pediment. Its finely proportioned dome runs over the crossing and encircles the church on an oval plan. There are three bronze doors that have scenes from the life of Christ, with the central door also depicting scenes of the life of the Virgin. On the left side of the facade, you can also find the tomb of Buscheto with an inscription about the foundation of the Cathedral and the victorious battle against the Saracens.
Porta di San Ranieri
The Porta di San Ranieri (St. Ranieri’s Door) is the entrance on the east side of the cathedral, which is in front of the Leaning Tower. This is where visitors usually enter the Cathedral. These cast bronze doors were made in 1180 by Bonanno Pisano and have beautiful reliefs of scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin depicted on them. Other notable works of art around the Porta di San Ranieri include the Tomb of Emperor Henry VII, who is referred to by Dante’s Divine Comedy; the Cathedral Treasury, found on the principle apse of the Sagrestia dei Cappellani; a St. Agnes by Andrea del Sarto, as well as a Madonna and Child by Giovanni Antonio Sogliani; a mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist; and a fine bronze lamp, which is said to have inspired Galileo with the idea of the swinging pendulum.
The artistic highlight of the Cathedral can be seen in the pulpit created by Giovanni Pisano in 1302. It was taken apart 1599 and then reassembled in an imperfect manner in 1926. Giovanni’s style differs greatly with that of his father Nicola Pisano, who designed the baptistery using more rounded forms compared to his son’s angular style. The pulpit is supported by several columns with beautiful depictions of Archangel Michael, Christ, Hercules and the Four Cardinal Virtues. There are also relief panels around it with lively representations of scenes from the life of Christ, as well as images of St. John the Baptist and the Last Judgment.
Tips and Advice
- Admission to the Cathedral is free, but there are entrance fees for the adjoining attractions such as the Leaning Tower and the Cemetery. There is also no entrance fee for prayer at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. If you wish to visit only the Cathedral, then you should go to the ticket office to avail for your entrance coupon, which is good for two people.
- The Cathedral is open daily at 10:00 am and at 1:00 pm during the holidays. Closing times depend on the time of the year: from November to February at 12:45 am; in March at 6:00 pm; from April to September at 8 pm; and October at 7:00 pm.
- For those who wish to attend mass, there are services observed from Monday to Saturdays at 8:00 am and 9:30 am and Sunday masses at 8:00 am, 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 12:00 am and 5:00 pm (6:00 pm during summer).
- Proper decorum and attire is strictly observed because of the nature of the cathedral. There are people who actively go to the cathedral to pray, so it’s best to keep your voice down while visiting.