Either Via Solferino or the winding course of Via S. Maria, in which is the Trovatelli or Foundling Hospital, lead to the famous area where the four great architectural treasures of Pisa are enshrined, the Duomo, the Campo Santo, the Baptistery and the Leaning Tower, all dazzling white in the sunshine, and bewildering to the eye with their innumerable columns and pinnacles.
In building as in war Pisa was strong and original, and set her stamp on the architecture that surrounded her. She took the Tuscan-Romanesque style, and her splendour-loving temperament forced her to develop it in the direction of great elaboration of detail.
The style that resulted may be studied at every stage from the simple form of S. Piero a Grado, to the intricacy of the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Leaning Tower, S. Michele al Borgo and S. Paolo a Ripa d’ Arno, with their multiplication of small arcades.
But though over-ornamented it never degenerated, as in Lucca, to the merely rhetorical, with frontispieces raised far above the roof of the building for the sole purpose of covering more space with meaningless ornamentation.
Perhaps its most emphatic and typical instance in Pisa is the Leaning Tower, the whole structure of which is masked with row upon row of precisely similar arcades, which though beautiful in themselves, weary the eye by unnecessary reiteration.
Far finer is the tower of S. Niccolò, where the arcading is temperately used, and its single row of arches is a delight instead of a weariness. There was never any progression or development in the form or in the proportions of the structure. The Pisans used the basilica form as they found it, practically a large oblong gabled house, with a small gabled house superimposed and one or two apses at the end, supported inside by two rows of columns. But they paid more attention to the harmony of the interior and of the exterior than any people since the Romans, and covered the exterior with panelling below and with arcades above, elaborating the fagade to such an extent that it was practically covered with arcades and columns, each column even being sometimes fancifully carved.
( From the book “The Story of Pisa” by Janet Ross and Nelly Erichsen – Illustrade by Nelly Erichsen – London : J.M. Dent & Co, Aldine House, 29 and 30 Bedfod Street Covent Garden, W.C. – 1909 )
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