History Of The Square Of Miracles - The Leaning Tower Of Pisa
The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) is one of the most picturesque squares in Italy.
This incredible Piazza is famous for it's four parts. There is The Duomo (Cathedral), the Baptistery, The Bell Tower (Leaning Tower of Pisa), The Campo Santo (monumental cemetery) and the Spedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito (New Hospital of Holy Spirit) which now is host to the Museum of Sinopias. To see these buildings all together when you walk into the Piazza is just amazing.
There are several entrances into the Square of Miracles. Every time we went, we went the same way. We found this nice, enclosed, paid parking area that was only about two blocks from the Walled entrance. When you walk through the arches the view is amazing. The Baptistery is first, then the Duomo, followed by the Leaning Tower. The Piazza doesn't close and is open year around. We even got to experience some snow (which was very rare for this area).
The Duomo (Cathedral)
The Duomo (Cathedral) is a magnificent medieval cathedral that is dedicated to St. Mary of the Assumption and is the oldest of the structures in the Piazza. The construction of the Duomo began in 1064 and set the model for the distinctive style of architecture.
The outside of the Cathedral is made of grey marble with a white stone set. Discs of colored marble also help add character to the exterior of the Cathedral. There are three main doors into the cathedral. The center one was made of bronze around 1180, while the other two were probably made in wood. Today, the huge doors are made of bronze. Above the doors are four rows of open galleries with statues of Madonna with Child and the Four evangelists on the four corners. There is also a modern replica of the Pisa Griffin on a high column rising from the gable at the east end of the exterior.
The Cathedral contains many great works of art. The most breathtaking is the elaborate carved pulpit by Nicola Pisano. The pulpit was designed in the Gothic Siena Cathedral style. There are several tombs in the Cathedral, including the tomb of St. Ranieri, the patron saint of the city and patron saint of travelers. There are mosaics in the interior as well and most are Byzantine in origin. A beautiful mosaic of Christ in Majesty with St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary on either side is in the apse, and is similar to the mosaics in the Monreale Cathedral in Sicily.
The Baptistery is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and stands on the opposite west end of the Duomo. This Baptistery is the largest in all of Italy.
The doorway into the Baptistry is flanked by two classical columns, while the inner jambs are executed in Byzantine style. It is divided into two tiers. The lower one depicts several episodes in the life of St. John the Baptist, while the upper one shows Christ between the Madonna and St. John the Baptist, flanked by angels and the evangelists.
The interior of the Baptistery is surprisingly plain and lacks decoration but that does not take away from the immensity of the interior. There are also amazing acoustics inside.
The Leaning Tower
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the actual bell tower to the Duomo di Pisa (Cathedral of Pisa). The construction was started in 1174 by Pisano. Pisano had built it to it's third story when he stopped building because the tower had started sinking into the ground. It took 2 more stages and another 177 years to finish building the Bell Tower.
Because all that marble is too heavy for the sandy soil to support, the tower started tilting right away. When builders tried to correct the tilt during construction, they inadvertently gave it a slight banana-like curve. Engineers determined in 1990 that the tower's slant made it too dangerous to hold visitors. Officials closed the tower, wrapped steel bands around it to keep the masonry from falling apart, stacked ugly lead weights on one side, and dug out around it to try and correct the lean by a few feet. The tower was closed to visitors for over a decade, but various drastic measures in the 1990s helped reverse the lean, and now it is open for visitors to climb again.
Guided visits to the tower last about 30 minutes long and are limited to 30 people each tour. To purchase tickets in advance from TickItaly it would cost 22.50 Euro and you have to give them a certain time limit that you will be there. Children under the age of 8 are NOT allowed to go into the tower.
When visiting the Square of Miracles you are able to purchase tickets for each building seperately or all at once. It does cost to go into each building in the Square. We went into the Cathedral, Baptistery, Museum and up the Leaning Tower. Each visit we made to Pisa we spent a lot of time in the square watching the tourists and enjoying the scenery. It is quite comical to sit and watch the tourists taking the famous "holding the tower up" photos and seeing the creativity of what others can come up with. There is grass where many people sit and enjoy the day, although signs say to stay off the grass. We had to do our own little tourist photo (we of course got the holding up of the tower as well) and the souvineers at the open air markets they had all around Pisa. It is definately a magical place!