Marble Magic

External view of the Pisa Baptistry with tourist looking at it in awe
Baptistry | Pisa | 2023

It’s been super busy these past weeks, mainly due to the job that pays the bills. Not much time to take a camera for a spin, and neither time to write about it on these pages. But with things slowly getting back to normal, let me share the results of some recent photographic outings I managed to squeeze in none less. Like these couple of black & white images from a day trip to Pisa’s Piazza dei Miracoli we did the other week while spending time at our “south” home in Genoa. Continue after the jump for some history and photographs of this 13th century marble magic …

Pisa Leaning Tower

The star of the ensemble on the Piazza dei Miracoli is, without any doubt, one of the most iconic buildings in the world, the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”. The campanile (bell tower) of the cathedral was the final addition to the three prominent marble structures on the piazza. Its construction, led by architect Bonanno Pisano, started in 1173 and spanned a remarkable 177 years. It wasn’t until 1372 that the bell-chamber was finally incorporated. Within five years of initiating construction, when the tower had reached the third floor, the inferior subsoil and inadequate foundation caused the edifice to tilt towards the south. Recognizing the precarious situation, the construction was halted, allowing a century for the subsoil to stabilize and prevent the tower from collapsing.

After the project resumed in 1272, efforts were made to rectify the lean by constructing the upper floors with one side taller than the other. Eventually, in 1319, the seventh and final floor was added. Upon completion, the tower exhibited an inclination of approximately 1 degree, or 80 cm (2.5 feet) off the vertical axis. At its most extreme, prior to 1990, the lean was measured at approximately 5.5 degrees. By 2010, however, it had been reduced to about 4 degrees. Rising to a height of 60 meters, the tower was designed to house a total of seven primary bells. Today, the top of the campanile can be accessed again by climbing up 296 steps.

Piazza dei Miracoli - Baptistry, Cathedral and Leaning Tower
Piazza dei Miracoli with Baptistry, Cathedral and Leaning Tower

The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) is home to four principal religious edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), and the Leaning Tower. The Piazza, partly paved and partly grassed, is a great example of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world.

The piazza’s history starts in the 11th century when Pisa was a powerful maritime republic. The cathedral was the first building to be constructed in 1063. Dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption), is a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture, incorporating elements of the classical, early Christian, Lombard-Emilian, and Byzantine styles. A magnificent facade of white and grey marble leads up to a spectacular row of colonnades and arches, with bronze doors depicting scenes from the New Testament. Inside, the cathedral is even more magnificent. The three-nave interior is adorned with stunning mosaics, a large dome towering above the nave.

inside of the Pisa cathedral
Duomo Santa Maria Assunta | Pisa | 2023
Statue of an angel holding a candle in the cathedral of pisa
Angelic candle holder | Pisa | 2023
side vault with an illuminated painting in the cathedral of pisa
Artwork in the cathedral | Pisa | 2023
Base of the pulpit in the baptistry
Base of the Baptistery’s pulpit | Pisa | 2023

The construction of then Baptistery (the largest in Italy with a circumference of more than 100 meters) began in 1152, but was only completed in the 14th century, when the loggia and the dome were added in Gothic style by famous artists and architects Nicola (father) and Giovanni (son) Pisano. A magnificent piece of 13th century art inside the Baptistry is the pulpit by Nicola Pisano, sculpted between 1255 and 1260.

marble statue of a woman on a sarcophagus
Statue on a sacrophagus | Pisa | 2023

The Camposanto Monumentale, the final of the four main structures to be built, was initiated in 1277 by architect Giovanni di Simone. It is said to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world and was constructed around a load of sacred soil brought back from Golgotha during the Crusades, hence its name, “Holy Field”. The Camposanto Monumentale once contained a large collection of Roman sculptures and sacrophagi, but now only about 80 are remaining. Along the walls and in the marble floor of the surrounding hallways the visitors can view the splendid tombs of many of Pisa’s noble families.

marble floor of the campo santo in Pisa
Camposanto | Pisa | 2023

The Piazza dei Miracoli with its marble magic truly is one of the finest spiritual and architectural ensembles in the world. For this post, I decided to share a few images converted to monochrome in Lightroom Classic, as black & white brings out brilliantly the architectural splendor of this place. The photographs were taken with the Leica SL2-S and the Vario-Elmarit-SL 1:2.8/24-70 ASPH, plus a few iPhone shots mixed in. Like the last image of this post, where I wanted to capture the vastness of the monumental cemetery with an ultra wide angle shot – lying on the floor with my iPhone 😉

Wish you a great Wednesday!


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19 thoughts on “Marble Magic

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  1. Wow, Marcus, the photos are very beautiful! The art and architecture are amazing. Thank you for sharing these!

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