Campo dei Miracoli – Pisa, Italy

Pisa’s world-famous Leaning Tower is just one of the splendid buildings rising from the lawns of the “Field of Miracles.” It is joined by the Duomo, a triumph of marble decoration; Italy’s largest baptistry, with an acoustically perfect interior; and the Campo Santo cemetery, containing Roman sarcophagi and sculptures. The buildings combine Moorish elements, such as inlaid marble in geometric patterns (arabesques), with delicate Romanesque colonnading and spiked Gothic niches and pinnacles.


When Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800, he encouraged an ambitious wave of church-building through­out Western Europe Massive vaults and arches, characteristic of ancient Roman architecture, were combined with elements from Byzantium and the Middle East, and from the Germans, Celts, and other northern tribes in Western Europe. This fusion created a number of local styles known as Romanesque, meaning “in the manner of the Roman.” Romanesque buildings are characterized by their vast size, sturdy piers, and semicircular arches. Decoration is carved into the structural fabric, rather than painted on. An important innovation was the replacement of timber construction with stone vaulting, which increased resistance to fire.



The fine, snow-white marble quarried in Massa- Carrara province in Tuscany was the stone of choice for many Italian sculptors and architects during the Renaissance. Carrara marble was a great favorite of Michelangelo and many of his most famous works are sculpted from it.

The 300 or so quarries, located near the city of Carrara, date back to Roman times, making this the world’s oldest industrial site in continuous use. In Carrara itself today there are showrooms and workshops where the marble is worked into sheets or made into ornaments. The house in which Michelangelo stayed when buying marble is marked by a plaque.



The tower is not the only leaning building on this site: the shallow foundations and sandy silt subsoil create problems for all of the structures. However, none tilts so famously as the Leaning Tower. The tower began to tip sideways even before the third story was finished. Despite this, construction continued until the tower’s completion in 1350, when the addition of the bell chamber brought its total height to 179 ft (54.5 m). Recent engineering interventions have corrected the tilt by 15 inches (38 cm). Measures adopted included the use of counterweights and the introduction of ten anchors. The tower was reopened in 2001.

Baptistry Pulpit by Nicola Pisano


This great marble pulpit, completed in 1260, is carved with lively scenes from the life of Christ.

The Triumph of Death


These late 14th-century frescoes depict various allegorical scenes, including a knight and a lady overwhelmed by the stench of an open grave.

Campo Santo


This former cemetery was built in 1278 around soil brought back from the Holy Land. Once decorated with extensive frescoes, it was the burial place of Pisa’s wealthy for centuries.

Leaning Tower

This bell tower in the Pisan-Romanesque style was completed in 1350, when its seven bells were hung.

Duomo Facade


Colored sandstone, glass, and majolica plates decorate the Lombard-style, 12th-century facade. Its patterned surface includes knots, flowers, and animals in inlaid marble.

Duomo Pulpit


The carved supports for Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit (1302-11) symbolize the Arts and Virtues.



The Baptistry started life as a Romanesque structure (1153), but it has a Gothic dome. The plain interior has a Gothic pulpit and baptismal font.

Portale di San Ranieri


Bonanno Pisan o’s bronze panels for the Duomo’s south transept doors depict the life of Christ. Palm trees and Moorish buildings show Arabic influence.

Carrara Marble

The Duomo’s walls are decorated with horizontal layers of white and gray marble.

Twelfth-century Wall Tomb

Buscheto, the Duomo’ s original architect, is buried in the last blind arch on the left side of the facade.

Carrara Marble

The Duomo’s walls are decorated with horizontal layers of white and gray marble.


1064: The foundation stone of the Duomo is laid.
1152: Building work begins on the Baptistry.
1173: Construction starts on the Leaning Tower.
1260: Nicola Pisano completes the marble Baptistry pulpit.
1311: Giovanni Pisano finishes sculpting the Duomo pulpit.
1987: The Campo dei Miracoli is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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