Square of Miracles
As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in January 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.
While Pisa is best known for its leaning tower, the city — and even the complex the tower is part of — has plenty of other monuments worth seeing. Though the formal name of the complex is simpler (Piazza del Duomo), it is most admiringly known as the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) after the Italian writer and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio referred to it as the “prato dei miracoli,” or “meadow of miracles” in his 1910 novel Forse che sè forse che no.
The square is dominated by four structures, and has jointly been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The four buildings are as follows:
Battistero di San Giovanni
While the interior of the Florence Baptistery is a marvel and a gem, the exterior of the Pisa Baptistery wins hands down in my book. It is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and was built starting in 1153.
Duomo di Pisa
Dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (Saint Mary of the Assumption), the construction of the church began in 1064. It was later used as a model for what came to be known as Pisan Romanesque, and its massive bronze doors were made by Giambologna.
The monument I remember most fondly. Essentially an enclosed cemetery, Camposanto is allegedly built around a shipload of soil brought from Calvary (the site of the Crucifixion), which is where its name (Campo Santo = Holy Field) comes from.
The Porta de Leone (Lion’s Gate) is part of the Wall of Pisa and dates back to the 12th century. It was one of the two main gates (the other being the Porta del Parlascio) through which important personages passed through when entering the city. While the lion that sits upon it originally sat facing the exterior, and thus protecting the city, after the Florentine occupation it was turned so that it faced inward, and thus kept a watchful eye over its populace.
More commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it was the last of the three major buildings to be constructed. It was begun in 1173, and its last floor was added in 1319, since its sinking (due to a weak subsoil and foundation) had to be given time to settle.
The square is also home to the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito (New Hospital of the Holy Spirit), which houses the Sinopias Museum and the Cathedral Museum.