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Monumental Piazza del Duomo

  • Monumental Piazza del Duomo

    La Cattedrale di San Zeno, the Pisan-Romanesque cathedral, boasts a splendid 12th-century façade of green-and-white marble stripes. Architecturally, Pisa was the seminal influence in Pistoia as trading links with Spain and North Africa led to a fondness for surface patterning, copying Moorish tilework and textiles. A marble portico was added later and decorated with a delightful blue-and-white Andrea della Robbia bas-relief. Inside are three naves divided by stone pillars and a 14th-century wooden ceiling over the central nave. The interior was remodelled in Renaissance and Baroque times but still reveals a feast of medieval frescoes, some Renaissance paintings and an impressive medieval Crucifix made in 1274. Ignore the macabre `jawbone of St James’, a relic supposedly acquired by San Zeno, for a more appealing tribute to the saint. In the Chapel of St James (Dossale di San Jacopo) prepare to be dazzled by the massive, ornate silver altar. It is decorated with bas-reliefs and statuary added by silversmiths and artists over a period of two centuries, including Brunelleschi. Flanking the Cathedral (Duomo) is the treasury, housed in the Palazzo dei Vescovi. The treasury is so laden with riches that even Dante mentioned it in The Divine Comedy.

    Standing sentinel beside the Duomo is the soaring Campanile, built on the site of a Longobard watchtower. This Gothic bell-tower boasts three tiers of green-and-white Pisan arches, reflecting the Duomo façade. The swallow-tail crenellations evoke the Ghibelline period. Climb the bell-tower for a bird’s eye view of Piazza del Duomo, with its array of religious buildings and grand Renaissance palaces. It’s a rewarding climb up 200 steps to views that reveal the city’s wealth of medieval architecture. Opposite the bell-tower is the Battistero di San Giovanni, the 14th-century Baptistery of St John. Designed by Andrea Pisano, this octagonal baptistry is banded in traditional green and white marble. Inside, the solemn mood draws the eye towards the impressive baptismal font, placed in the centre of the octagon, and designed by Lanfranco di Como.

    Address: Cathedral, Bell-tower & Baptistry, Piazza del Duomo, 51100 Pistoia

    Tel: 0573 25095

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