Janet Ross e Nelly Erichsen – Pisa, The Duomo, the Baptistery and the Leaning Tower  – 1


” There is a sacred place within her walls
Sacred and silent, save when they that die
Come there to rest, and they that live, to pray,
For then are voices heard, crying to God,
Where yet remain, apart from all things else,
Four, such as nowhere on the earth are seen

Italy. S. Rogers.


The impression received on stepping out of the quiet Via Solferino into the Piazza del Duomo is almost startling. The contrast between the cool street with its sober architecture and the blaze of sunshine bathing the group of mighty buildings, that is in its way an almost unparalleled monument of human capacity, is not easily forgotten.

A spot midway between Via Solferino and Via S. Maria is the best from which to take a first view of the scene. Considerably to the right the fairy-like Leaning Tower is seen, with its fret-work of arches broken into a complicated play of light and shade by the morning sun.

Its tall shadow creeps stealthily along the ground, and up the imposing eastern apse of the neighbouring Duomo as though claiming kinship with that magnificent pile. Columns and pilasters of marble, of porphyry and alabaster ; gates of wrought bronze, glittering mosaics and lavish arcades, give it an appearance of great splendour.

The whole effect is redeemed from a tendency to squatness by the aspiring cupola and light crown of gothic arches.

To the left of this again we catch a glimpse of the long low fa$ade of the Campo Santo, broken only by a gothic tabernacle and one incongruous dome. Little does this modest exterior, which shrinks away behind its loftier companions, tell us of the treasures enclosed within.

Last of all, the noble lines of the Baptistery cleave the sky. With its air of great distinction, the largeness of its conception and the variety of its ornamental devices, the other buildings pale before it. The grouping of building with building is very fine, though marred a little by the oblique lines of the Leaning Tower, which, as Dickens says, ” certainly inclines as much as the most sanguine tourist could desire,” and introduces a note of discord into the harmony of vertical lines.

Once white, the colour of the whole group is now a pale gold or a delicate grey, contrasting brilliantly with the greensward on which the buildings stand.

In the morning light the picture takes on a peculiar radiance, accentuated by the diaphanous blue of its background of hills. During the festal seasons of the church the scene is enriched with gorgeous processions, that unite the Baptistery with the Cathedral by a long line of gold-clad priests and prelates.

A daily feature is the hurrying stream of black cassocks and flying cloaks that pours across the green towards the Duomo at the hour of the offices. The faint pealing of the organ and the sound of many bells seem also a component part of the picture. So does the aromatic breath of incense, that emerges each time the doors are opened from the dim interior.


( 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 )


Pisa - Piazza dei Miracoli - 2013 07 02 - DSCF0844


Pisa - Piazza dei Miracoli - Illustrazione tratta dal libro Pisa e le sue adiacenze di Ranieri Grassi, 1851
Pisa – Piazza dei Miracoli – Illustrazione tratta dal libro “Pisa e le sue adiacenze” di Ranieri Grassi, 1851


Pisa - Piazza dei Miracoli - 2013 07 02 - DSCF0828
Pisa – Piazza dei Miracoli

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