Piazza del Duomo, Pisa (1987)

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Standing in a large green expanse, Piazza del Duomo houses a group of monuments known the world over. These four masterpieces of medieval architecture – the cathedral, the baptistry, the campanile (the 'Leaning Tower') and the cemetery – had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century. 

Italy 2002. Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral and its campanile, also known as "The Leaning Tower".

Light and airy, despite being 100 m (328 ft) in length, Pisa's cathedral, begun in 1063, is also remarkably unified, although it took two centuries to finish. 

The Carrara marble façade, with superimposed registers of columns, set the pattern for the Romano-Pisan style which spread to the rest of Tuscany and beyond.

  • Italy 2002. Piazza dei Miracoli, with the cathedral and its campanile, also known as "The Leaning Tower". 
Pisa is a city in central Italy, the capital of Pisa Province, in Tuscany (Toscana) Region, on the Arno River, near the Ligurian Sea. 

Among the educational institutions are the University of Pisa (1343), a teachers college, an engineering school, a veterinary institute, and an agricultural school. 

  • Italy 1989. Pisa University. 

Italy 1989. Pisa University.

The principal landmarks of Pisa are grouped in the area of the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) and include the cathedral, the baptistery, and the bell tower (campanile), "The Leaning Tower". The cathedral, a great white marble edifice in the Romanesque style, was begun in 1063. The richly decorated facade was added in the 12th century. The baptistery, begun in 1153, is a circular building in the Romanesque style crowned with a great dome and lavishly ornamented in the 14th century in the Gothic style. The bell tower is known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and is a popular tourist attraction. 

United Nations (Geneva) 2001. "The Leaning Tower", Pisa.

Construction began in 1174 but was suspended when the builders became aware that the shallow foundation would be inadequate in the soft soil. The structure was nevertheless completed by the second half of the 14th century. 

The Leaning Tower is cylindrical in shape, with eight arcaded stories, and leans about 10° (about 16 feet) from the vertical. The tower had to be closed to visitors beginning in 1990 because of concerns that it was structurally unstable. Work to make the tower's foundation more secure was undertaken in 1992. 

  • United Nations (Geneva) 2002. "The Leaning Tower". 

An Etruscan town, Pisa became a Roman colony in the 2nd century BC. In the 9th century ad the city was a naval power. Pisa and its ally Genoa drove the Saracens from the islands of Sardinia and Corsica in the 11th century. Thereafter commercial rivalry between Pisa and Genoa led repeatedly to war. In the 12th and early 13th centuries Pisa attained its greatest power in commerce. During the political struggles that occurred in Italy during the Renaissance, Pisa belonged to the Ghibelline faction, which supported the Holy Roman emperors against the papacy. The opposing Guelphs were led by Florence, which wanted control of Pisan trade. Pisa was weakened in 1284, when the Genoese defeated its navy. 

In the next century Pisa won some victories on land, but in general its military situation worsened. In 1406 the city fell to Florence. Pisa regained its liberty in 1494 but in 1509 fell again to Florence. 

Among the notable citizens of Pisa were Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and the sculptors Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and Andrea Pisano. 

  • Italy 1964. Nice set of two stamps, commemorating Galilei's 400th birth anniversary. 

Italy 1964. Stamp #1 commemorating Galileo Gallelei's 400th birth anniversary.

Italy 1964. Stamp #2 commemorating Galileo Gallelei's 400th birth anniversary.

It is pointless to describe the sparkling charms of Pisa, the sepia of its walls, the animation of its passeggiata under the arcades of the Borgo Stretto, or the delightfully provincial atmosphere of the market in the Via San Martino. All the newcomers have eyes for, is the Leaning Tower, whose fame and image have reached every corner of the world. The tower is a campanile, a freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of Pisa. Like the cathedral and associated baptistery, the tower was built in the Romanesque style. Adjacent to the three structures is a cemetery, or camposanto (Italian: literally, holy field, originally meant to hold sacred soil from The Holy Land). 

The tower is renowned for its marked tilt. This spectacular irregularity has tended to obscure the fact that it is also a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture and decoration. Begun in 1173, the eight-story round tower is 55 m (180 ft) tall and 16 m (52 ft) in diameter at the base. The ground floor is encircled by a blind arcade, or series of walled-in arches. 

Italy 1989. "The Leaning Tower", Pisa.

Six additional levels of open galleries, consisting of round arches supported on columns, are surmounted by the bell chamber, somewhat smaller in diameter. Although the tower's ancient bells remain in place, they are no longer rung. 

The interior of the tower is occupied by a 294-step spiral staircase that leads to the bell chamber. The exterior is adorned with fine multicolored marbles and excellent carved work. The doorway, which is especially ornate, features grotesque carvings of animals. 

Construction of the campanile stretched over a period of nearly 200 years, partly because of delays caused by the tower's persistent structural problems. 

  • Italy 1989. The Tower of Pisa. 

By the time the first three stories were completed, one side of the tower had already begun to sink into the soft soil, and construction was halted for nearly 100 years. The first attempts to counter the lean of the structure were made in 1275, when construction resumed. By 1301 six stories were complete, and the tower was finished about 1350. 
  • St. Vincent of the Grenadines 1996. UNESCO anniversary. Cathedral of Santa Maria Asunta, Pisa. The stamp is digitally cut out of a souvenir sheet. Click here to see the full sheet. The link will open in a new window. The stamp is located in the top row, middle. Scan by courtesy of Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia). 

At its summit, the structure tilts about 5 m (16 ft) from the vertical, and the lean is said to be increasing at a rate of about 1 mm (about 1/25 of an inch) per year. Italian physicist Galilei conducted his famous experiments with gravity and the relative speed of falling objects from the top story of the tower. The structure has been closed to the public since 1990 due to safety and conservation concerns. 

St. Vincent of the Grenadines 1996. UNESCO anniversary. Cathedral of Santa Maria Asunta, Pisa.

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Italy (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Italy for further information about such sites. 

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Revised 01 aug 2006  
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