The many lives of Santa Maria Assunta

Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta

Dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Pisa Cathedral is a perfect example of the style denominated “Pisan Romanesque.” The building is heavily influenced by the Byzantine, the classical, and the Islamic, due to the international nature of Pisa as a port city.

It was begun in 1063 by Buscheto, and was finally completed in 1092, though it was not consecrated until 1118 by Pope Gelasius II, member of the influential Caetani family. It was later enlarged and given a new façade, designed by the sculptors Guglielmo and Biduino, work which was completed in 1180.

There was a fire in 1595 which required the replacement of the church roof. A new set of doors was also created, completed by sculptors from the workshop of Giambologna, including Gasparo Mola and Pietro Tacca.

This mosaic (what you see here is a photo, since conservation work on the ceiling was covering its view from the other end of the nave) shows Christ enthroned between the Virgin Mary and Saint John. It was completed by Cimabue in the early fourteenth century, and survived the fire that destroyed much of the church roof in the late sixteenth century. It was translated into mosaic by Francesco da Pisa and Vincino da Pistoia, and finally completed in 1320.

Restoration work was completed in the church from 2015-2018, as you can see by the scaffolding present in some of these photos.

The pulpit, which as I mentioned here was designed by Giovanni Pisano, also survived the fire but was taken apart during the restoration work that followed it. It wasn’t until 1926 that it was put back together, and, due to lack of documentation, it’s possible that it’s neither standing in its original spot nor were its pieces fit back together in their original order.

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