Buscheto, the architect who laid the cathedral's first stone in 1063, kicking off a new era in art by building what was to become the model for the Pisan Romanesque style, is buried in the last blind arch on the left of the facade. All the elements of the nascent Romanesque style are here on the facade, designed and built by Buscheto's successor, Rainaldo: alternating light and dark banding, rounded blind arches with Moorish-inspired lozenges at the top and colored marble inlay designs, and Lombard-style open galleries of tiny mismatched columns stacked to make the facade (currently being restored) much higher than the church roof. A disastrous 1595 fire destroyed most of the works inside the church, but luckily the 16th-century Pisans recognized and hired some of the better late- and post-Renaissance artists for the refurbishing.
In summer, you sometimes enter through the main door, one of three cast by students of Giambologna after the 1595 fire destroyed the originals. The normal entrance to the church is usually on the back of the right transept, across from the bell tower, where the fourth original bronze Door of San Ranieri still survives. It was cast (along with the now-lost facade doors) by Bonnano Pisano in 1180 while he was working on the soon-to-be-listing bell tower. Inside the right transept (which you enter through this door), you'll find another work that survived the fire, the tomb of Emperor Henry VII by Tino di Camaino (1315) surmounted by a pair of Ghirlandaio angels. Henry VII was a hero to the Ghibelline Pisans, who supported his successful bid for Holy Roman Emperor.
On the north side of the nave, Giovanni Pisano's masterpiece pulpit (1302-11) has regained its rightful place. After the fire, the baroquies decided the nasty old Gothic pulpit was an eyesore, so they dismantled it and put it in a crate; it wasn't found and reassembled until 1926. It's the last of the famed Pisano pulpits and arguably the greatest.
Hanging low near the pulpit is a large bronze lamp that, according to legend, a bored Galileo was staring at one day during Mass, watching it sway gently back and forth, when his law of the pendulum suddenly hit him. Spoilsports like to point out the lamp was cast in 1586, a few years after Galileo's discovery, but the legend may still be salvaged: Another lamp probably hung here before this one. Beneath the frescoed oval dome is what remains of the Cosmatesque pavement of particolored marble designs. The bronze angels (1602) flanking the choir entrance and the crucified Christ over the altar are by the baroque master of bronze Giambologna, and on the entrance pier to the choir is Andrea del Sarto's almost Leonardesque St. Agnes with her Lamb, painted in High Renaissance style. In the apse is the last of the major survivors of the fire, an enormous 13th-century mosaic Christ Pancrator, completed in 1302 by Cimabue, who added the St. John the Evangelist on the right.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010