La Piazza dei miracoli is a walled, about 9-hectare square area in Pisa which is famous worldwide for its four major attractions. It’s one of the most significant mediaeval art, architectural and historical places in Tuscany and in the world. By the way, the square is also considered a holy place by the Catholic Church which is its owner.
As to the name, it was given by Gabriele d’Annunzio (an Italian writer and poet). He described it as “un prato dei Miracoli” (“a meadow of wonders, miracles”) in his book “Forse che sì forse che no”. Even nowadays the square is sometimes called il Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) but it’s better known as the Square of Miracles. So, which are the main four sacred edifices of great importance in …
L A P I A Z Z A D E I M I R A C O L I
Il Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery): Principally, the term “camposanto” (campo/field and santo/holy) is a “cimitero” and it means “cemetery” in English. This “holy field” is supposed to have been built around 53 shiploads of sacred and holy soil from Golgotha which was brought from the Hill of Calvary in Jerusalem to Pisa by the Fourth Crusade in the 12th century. It’s always been believed that if bodies are placed in this ground, they will rot only in one day. Nowadays this graveyard is known as il Camposanto Vecchio (the Old Cemetery). This historic building in the Square of Miracles is called “monumental” so it can be differentiated it from the urban graveyards of Pisa which were later established.
Battistero di San Giovanni: The Pisa Baptistery is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Its construction began in the 12th century, more precisely in 1153, and it was finished in the 14th century. The building is in Romanesque style besides the loggia, the top storey and the dome which are Gothic. Actually, the upper part of the building was added to the Baptistery by Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano (1277 – 1297) and the Gothic dome – by Cellino di Nese, so it could be finished in 1363. Nowadays il Battistero di San Giovanni is the largest one in Italy and it is also a few centimetres taller than the Leaning Tower. An interesting fact is that Galileo was baptized here in 1565.
Il Duomo di Pisa: The Pisa Cathedral is as attractive as the nearby Bell Tower. It still dominates and is placed in the monumental Square of Miracles (or also known as la Piazza del Duomo). It was started in 1093 and as a matter of fact, its construction bore the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style. Its architect was Buscheto who was buried in the last blind arch on the left side of the façade. As to the latter, it was built by his successor – Rainaldo. Unfortunately, the Cathedral was destroyed severely by a disastrous fire in 1595 which devastated most of the medieval art. Later it underwent a redecoration by the best Renaissance artists.
The Campanile: The Bell Tower is surely the most attractive and most eye-catching monument in the Square of Miracles. And there is a reason for that. We all know it leans and that’s why it’s known as “la Torre pendente di Pisa” in Italian and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in English. Its construction took only 199 years. It started in 1173 and it was finished in 1399. Unfortunately, there were two stops – the first one for about one hundred years, the second in 1284, and the reason was always wars. The Leaning Tower had 5 architects. Bonanno Pisano or Gherardo di Gherardo worked on it during the first phase. Then Giovanni Pisano and Giovanni di Simone continued the second phase. As for Tommaso Pisano, he was who finished the construction of the tower.
Why does the tower lean? The name of Pisa derives from the Greek word which means a “marshy land”. The 3-metre deep foundations were laid on a very dense clay mixture. The clay was not very strong to hold it upright and consequently, the tower started leaning and sinking when the second time began. I will open a bracket here. There’re two other bell towers of churches in Pisa (the Church of St. Michele dei Scalzi and the Church of St. Nicola) that also lean. As to the Cathedral and the Baptistery, they sink, too. And all this is due to the marshy terrain. Bracket closed.
Some years ago engineers announced that the Tower of Pisa had stopped moving. It was a very peculiar fact because it was the first time it hadn’t been leaning further to one side. The good news is that famous Romanesque structure will remain fixed and stable and won’t fall over in the forthcoming 200 years. By then mankind will have already found more modern and advanced technologies and methods which will preserve it for other 800 years. So, the conclusion is that we and future generations will be able to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the Leaning Tower for many, many centuries. Moreover, we will still have the chance to climb up the 251 steps from the bottom to the top along the eight stories until we reach the chamber of the seven bells (each bell represents one note of the major scale in music).
So, don’t ever miss the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is, for sure, among the most eye-catching towers in the world. Its drastic lean to one side gives you a very extraordinary feeling while you climb up and up, and up, until you reach the top. And there …. and there you simply get the “wooow” effect because of the fantastic Square of Miracles, the city of Pisa and the sea that are at a glance.