The square around the Cathedral got its name from an Italian writer and poet who wrote about the “Meadow of Miracles” (Piazza dei Miracoli) in his book. The green area near the city walls is located a bit away from the historical center.
Here stands the Baptistery, the largest baptistery in the world, the Camposanto Monumentale cemetery and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Campanile (Leaning Tower). The square has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
On our first visit to Piazza dei Miracoli, it was raining cats and dogs. We therefore relatively quickly sought the dry and bought tickets for the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Camposanto Monumentale. It wasn’t until our second visit, when the sun was shining, that the beauty of the buildings and the special nature of the square really came into their own.
Next to the cathedral in Pisa is a round building that interests me a lot just because of its appearance. The Baptistery is the baptistery of the Cathedral and is said to be the largest baptistery in Christian history with a circumference of 107 meters and a height of 54 meters.
The building was constructed in Romanesque style from 1152, but finished much later, as financial difficulties initially led to a halt in construction.
Visually, the first level was still adapted to the cathedral. The second level shows the opulent Gothic style. In 1358, the outer segmental dome was erected and a third exterior floor was added.
Through a narrow door we enter the Baptistery in Pisa. Astonished, I stand in a large open room. In the center is an octagonal baptismal font and there is a marble pulpit. While I am taking in the interior of the building, someone starts singing. What acoustics! Since the baptistery is built slightly cylindrical, there is a special echo behavior. The whole room is filled with an incredible sound experience.
Via a staircase we reach the circulation of the gallery. From here, you can have a great view in the direction of the cathedral in some places. But not only the view outside is worth seeing. I am thrilled by the view into the baptistery. From this height, the room looks even more impressive.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunata
The central building of Piazza dei Miracoli is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunata. Actually, the cathedral can be visited free of charge, but you still need an entrance ticket, which you can get in the central tourist information building.
The construction time of the cathedral is not exactly short with more than 200 years, yet it was possible to create a uniform facade of Carrara marble. However, if you look a little closer, you will discover some strange signs on the exterior walls. Many of the building materials come from old buildings or from conquered cities and were reused in the construction of the cathedral.
The construction of the cathedral began around 1063 in front of the old city wall on soft alluvial soil. This also caused the cathedral to slope slightly to the east. If you look at the facade today, you can discover some beautiful statues and especially the three entrance gates, which were created in the style of the original gates, I liked very much. The relief scenes are impressive and if you look closely you will discover some interesting scenes.
Unfortunately, in 1595 parts of the interior of the cathedral was destroyed in a fire. The beautiful golden coffered ceiling, for example, was created only after a restoration in the 17th century. There is much to discover in the cathedral. Numerous large and small works of art, among which I would also count the impressive pulpit from 1302-1311, make the cathedral look magnificent, but not overloaded.
If you want to know more about the cathedral, you can watch a short film about it at a video station in the cathedral.
The northern end of the Piazza dei Miracoli is formed by a monumental cemetery. From the outside, the building looks quite inconspicuous, but I think you should definitely take a look inside.
The rectangular construction of the building lasted about 80 years, from 1278 to 1358. and you can walk through a cloister around a green courtyard. The floor of the cloister is marked by numerous tomb slabs and there are numerous late antique sarcophagi. These served as tombs for the nobles of Pisa as early as the Middle Ages and were initially placed around the cathedral.
I am particularly impressed by the remains of the frescoes on the walls. I find some of the works beautiful and while I stroll through the Camposanto Monumentale I actually feel more like I’m in a huge gallery than in a cemetery.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The “main attraction” in Piazza dei Miracoli is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower is the city’s visitor magnet and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Originally, the freestanding tower was planned as a bell tower (campanile) for the cathedral. During the construction phase, when the third floor was reached, the tower began to lean. The construction work stopped and only 100 years later another 4 floors were built on the tower. They tried to build these floors with a lower angle of inclination in order to compensate for the inclination. Again, the construction work was interrupted and only a good 200 years after the laying of the foundation stone was the belfry finished.
The Campanile is 55 meters high and has a diameter of 12 meters. The tower was built from 14200 tons of Carrara marble, among other materials. In addition to its function as a bell tower, the tower should serve as a refuge for the clergy in case of danger.
In 1911, records of the tower’s inclination began to be kept and a doubling of the inclination from the 1930s to 1990 was noted. As a result, the tower was closed to visitors in January 1990 and solutions were sought to stabilize the structure. Many things were tried, with more or less success. Finally, in very simplified terms, material was removed from under the tower and the inclination was reduced to 4 degrees.
The tower has been open to visitors again since 2001. We didn’t go up the tower, even though it would have still been possible on the rainy day according to the ticket office. Only 40 visitors at a time are allowed to climb the tower for 15 minutes. During peak season, it is recommended to buy tickets online in advance.
We walked around the tower several times in both rain and shine. I honestly didn’t imagine it to be so crooked and was very surprised.
However, it was also particularly fun to watch the people in Piazza dei Miracoli.
We definitely enjoyed the visit and you shouldn’t miss going by Pisa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa if you’re in the area.
Piazza dei Miracoli
Winter: 9-19 h
summer: 8-20 h