Vagabond

Miracles & The Bell Tower- Pisa

I was many things in my former life, a fancy notebook, a fabulous handbag, a beautiful set of desk organisers, a rockstar but I am almost certain I was an Italian, and in my next life I will be an Italian. From the glorious hills of Tuscany, Florentine to be more specific. I love Italy. Paris is lovely, and beautiful, and stunning, and romantic, BUT Italy captures my heart and soul like no other place ever has. The people, the food, the roads, the museums, the history… It sips into your skin, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand and takes a hold of you.

On our way to Florence we stopped over in Pisa to do nothing other than to see the leaning tower. OF COURSE! The Square of Miracles, where the tower resides, holds some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, architectural wonders, and if we’d stayed long enough we could have explored more of Pisa but we wanted to play tourist. From the airport the Square is a half hour bus ride away, and it stops you right outside. Il Campo dei Miracoli. Besides the most beautiful and famous bell tower in the world, too bad Quasimodo wasn’t there, it is also home to the Duomo- the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the largest Baptistry in all of Italy, dedicated to one of my favourite saints, John The Baptist.

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Before I go on to gush about the wonder of the buildings, a little history lesson. The Square of Miracles is a property of the Catholic Church, and recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is a significant ground for the Catholic Church, and denotes three key stages; birth- the baptistry, life-the Cathedral, and death- the cemetery. The first building in the Square was the Duomo di Pisa, one of the many cathedrals dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, St Mary of the Assumption. The Cathedral is emblematic of the power of Pisa, built outside the city walls and ordained a Primate cathedral by Pope Urban II. The building is constructed using different colour marbles, mosaics, and different bronze objects. It is a building steeped in the history of its religion with some of the most beautiful works of art in it and a pulpit that itself tells a story.

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Batisstero Di San Giovanni, the Baptistry of St John, dedicated to John the Baptist, is one of the tallest religious buildings in Italy and the largest baptistery in all of Italy with a circumference of 107.25m. It stands a few centimetres taller that the tower because of the loggia and the statue of John the Baptist atop it and was designed by the artist Diotisalvi. It is a mix between a gothic style and romanesque, and constructed using white marble. Inside the baptistery are two tiers that depict significant events of the Catholic church one of which is the life of John the Baptist. The Baptistry is also a leaning building though not as prominent as the tower.

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Torre di Pisa, aka the bell tower, aka the leaning tower of Pisa, the main attraction is even more impressive in real life than it is in pictures. The construction was started in 1173 and took well over a century to complete. The weakness of the soil saw the tower starting to lean as construction hit the third floor. It was left for a hundred years, due to conflict amongst the different provinces of Italy, and that in essence gave the soil time to firm its foundation. When work resumed in 1272, to correct the lean the right side was built taller than the left. Another conflict, another halt in construction, for about thirty-five years, when work resumed in 1319 the seventh floor was built and the bell chamber was added in 1372. Today the tower is 60 metres high and accommodates seven main bells set to the music scale, the newest of which was added in 2004, cast from an old bell.

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On account of superstition or whatever it is it I didn’t visit the cemetery; let the dead rest in their peace we too will join them soon enough and will have all the time in the world with them. 🙂

I didn’t think I would be as impressed as I was with the leaning tower, but it is one of the most beautiful man made buildings, certainly the most astounding. Surrounded by a grass courtyard  where tourist and locals can sit and picnic, the surrounding buildings make the Square of Miracles even more impressive. Outside the Square is the obvious tourist market where once can buy everything and anything relating to the tower.

Because of the rich soil in Florence, several buildings have a lean just like the tower though not all are sinking as rapidly as the tower is said to be, about one minute every year. Its a shame that we didn’t get to visit the rest of Pisa, but this is why we’ll always go back.