The Duomo is a basilica of vast proportions. It is, on the whole, the most perfect specimen of PisanRomanesque. Indeed, it is the prototype of that style ; not because it was the first church to include local deviations from the Tuscan- Romanesque, which were already common in Lucca, in Pisa, and in the hill-towns around them, but because it took all those floating deviations, crystallised them, and knit them into so characteristic and complete a form, as to give birth to a new style.
So that, though we cannot believe, in looking at the elaborately worked-out architectural scheme, that it sprang spontaneously out of the brain of Buschetto and his fellow architects, we are forced to admit that there is enough of genius in the selection and combination of the already existing material to justify the above statement.
Possibly, too, the fact that its builders were not Pisans may have diverted the development of the style into a new channel. Anyhow, whether that, or a natural evolution consequent on the character of the Pisan race, was the cause, it was so different from anything that had gone before that we are obliged to consider it as an independent creation.
Its plan is a latin cross, and it consists of a nave 312 feet long with double aisles ; transepts, which also have aisles, and an apsidal choir. It is built almost entirely of white marble.
The whole building is raised on a marble platform and is approached by steps, which adds much to its dignity.
Alternating layers of black and white marble, and rich incrustations of mosaic, give it an air of opulent richness. Though built of ancient materials the east end, with its lovely apse, probably only dates from the same year as the Leaning Tower (1174), the arcades in both being exactly alike. It is, however, more restrained and simple in style, and therefore much more beautiful.
Some of the windows are remarkably fine, and no doubt formed part of the original structure. Those on the right and left of the south door are especially attractive, the former with a seated Byzantine figure of King David with his harp against a background of curious inlaid marble. An early mediaeval relief set up on end representing two ships entering the port of Pisa, forms one of the jambs. The latter window is surrounded by splendid slabs of green marble.
A classic frieze and cornice form the architrave of the south door, and among the small shafts in the colonnade some are of rich porphyry or alabaster. Both in detail and in design the east end is much the most beautiful part of the Duomo. The transepts are among the longest in Europe (237 feet). They and the nave have the same fine arched colonnade as the apse and the campanile, with two panelled stories above. At the junction of the four arms is the elliptical dome with a delicate corona of gothic arches. Something in the character of its lines, together with the bulb on the top, suggests the east, and it may well, with other details, have been suggested by oriental models.
( 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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